There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but the price paid yesterday for four people to enjoy a meal with star Spanish chef Ferran Adria was steep: HK$220,000.
The offer was part of the Sotheby's Hong Kong auction at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai for the cellar contents from Adria's now-closed restaurant, elBulli, famed for its "molecular gastronomy".
An unnamed online bidder paid the amount for the dinner, which will take place at Tickets, an acclaimed restaurant in Barcelona run by Adria's brother Albert. Adria was not worried that he had no idea who this person would be.
"It could be anyone. Either a client who has already been to elBulli [in the past] or someone willing to help the elBulli Foundation, it doesn't matter. They are obviously a fan," he said.
In total HK$14.1 million was raised at the auction, with the proceeds going to the foundation - a non-profit organisation that Adria started after the restaurant closed in July 2011 - which is scheduled to launch next year. A second auction will be held in New York on April 26.
One Hong Kong businessman, who also did not want to be identified, paid more than HK$2 million mostly for a variety of wines for his private collection, his representative said. This buyer forked out HK$563,500 alone for three bottles of Romanee Conti 1990 - the most paid for any of the lots - HK$539,000 for four bottles of Romanee Conti 2003, and HK$465,500 for three bottles of Romanee Conti 2000.
Novelty items like two chef's jackets signed by Adria went for HK$11,025 and HK$9,800.
"What we have raised here in Hong Kong is much more that I ever expected. I'm very, very pleased," Adria said.
He said he wasn't worried whether the auction in New York would prove more successful than Hong Kong's, as it was all about generating money for the foundation and giving elBulli's fans a chance to show their appreciation. "It's a great way to start the foundation and it's a great amount of money," he said. "I'm very happy because I think that the New York auction will go as well as this one."
Founded in 1961, elBulli was led by Adria for its last 27 years. A Michelin three-star establishment, it was based near the town of Roses in Catalonia, Spain. It was fêted with countless awards, topping the Restaurant magazine list of the world's 50 best restaurants five times, with Adria frequently named the world's greatest chef.
Despite closing on July 30, 2011, it inspired the elBulli Foundation. As part of the foundation's work, established chefs from around the world will come together to create, exchange and develop new ideas.