We all have a version of ‘the list’. Universal in its presence, it’s one that reads of painful missed opportunities - what we failed to action before it was too late.

Results of wrong timings, poor circumstance, conflicting agendas, these lists are an aching reminder of what could have been.

One of the top few entries on mine? Not having dined at elBulli before its closure as a restaurant on July 30, 2011.

Head chef and Catalan-born Ferran Adrià is universally accepted as the world’s greatest chef ever to have been.

He has contributed to the art of gastronomy, dining and haute cuisine the equivalent of what the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians have contributed to our daily existence, put together.

Elevating cooking beyond the familiar boundaries and experiences of eating and the pleasure derived from it, according to the frequent diner and late artist Richard Hamilton, Adrià has in fact created an entirely new language of food, along with the grammar and syntax to structure it. Eating his food, for Richard, was an experience comparable to reading the works of Shakespeare.

The exhibition is spread over two floors with the lower dedicated to the history of elBulli from its humble beginnings as a beach bar in 1963 to its eventual transformation into a restaurant in 1968 where it began to stand out as a popular establishment in the area. The first Michelin star was awarded under the directorship of Jean-Louis Neichel between 1975-1980 (and in 1993 went on to receive a total of three stars which it retained until its closure). But it was the introduction of Ferran Adrià in 1984 that began the meteoric rise of elBulli’s reputation and the unparalleled dining experience it was able to offer.

The upper floor reveals the alien world of elBulli innovation, one that grasps you by the prefrontal cortex and wrenches you out of the familiar tangible sensory world we are used to experiencing.

Through a series of short films shown on small wall-mounted screens dotted along a timeline of conception, we are treated to glimpses of the meticulous, scientific and creative processes involved in some of the dishes.

And by dishes, I also mean works of art, philosophical metaphors, emotive compositions, novel inventions, scientific experiments, and the rest. In the breaks between one film ending and another starting and my completely ensnared attention briefly released, I notice those around me chuckling in disbelief with mouths aghast, punctuated with the odd exclamation of ‘did you see that?!’ Yes, yes I did.

Your Local Guardian: A giant bulli (French bulldog) made from piped meringue to celebrate the last day of the restaurant

A giant bulli (French bulldog) made from piped meringue to celebrate the last day of the restaurant

Greeting visitors soon after first entering the exhibition is a projected roll of film portraying images of joy, celebration and happiness.

Tens of men and women in chef whites with Adrià at the centre are dancing, cheering and hugging in joyous rapture against the backdrop of crashing symphonic music. At the start of this film Adrià declares in full voice and with poignancy, ‘Are we ready? Are we ready for the last meal of elBulli as a restaurant? Four fondues!’

This footage is from 30th July 2011, the last day of elBulli in its recognisable form. The reason for the festivities and jubilation is revealed in an interview filmed the following day, ‘The best day of my career? Yesterday. Why? Because when they see me, they know it’s not over’.

And the spirit of elBulli is anything but. The closing of the restaurant due to it operating at a loss since 2000 has given way to Adrià’s grand plans for the elBulli legacy. In its place has arisen the elBulli Foundation, a creativity center due to open in 2014.

Its main objective, ‘to be a think-tank for creative cuisine and gastronomy’ and will be managed by a private foundation.

Despite the ‘decontextualisation’ of every ingredient known to man, terminology more at home in a chemistry lab (try inverse spherification, lyophilisation, caramelisation - oh wait, I know that one), baguettes made from air, frozen dust, and diners sprayed with complimenting aromas, Adrià’s food at elBulli still ticked that all important criteria - ‘is this something I want to eat?’.

Olive oil soup with blood orange and orange blossom, cappuccino with black truffle jus and almond foam, cuttlefish and coconut ravioli?

I would happily devour all, and yet will consume none. The most tormented dining experience I’ve encountered.