Hispanic passion behind launch of new restaurant in Victorian arcade

Nick Hill and Alex Spurr in Paragon Arcade, where they plan to open The Hispanist.

A chef is preparing to share his childhood passion for Hispanic food and culture by opening a new restaurant in Hull city centre.

Nick Hill’s culinary travels will take in Spain, Mexico and South America when he unveils The Hispanist in a former sweet shop as the latest addition to the array of independent businesses in Paragon Arcade.

Work is under way now on converting The Treat Box, which closed at the beginning of this month, into a three-storey restaurant which Nick promises will bring something new to a city and surrounding area starved of Latin cuisine.

He said: “I had the idea a long time ago because it’s the type of food that not many people do well in this country. Places tend to serve Tex Mex, and not many people know what real Mexican food is.”

Nick, now 33, became hooked on all things Hispanic from an early age and he developed his interest in parallel with becoming an accomplished chef. He trained at the catering and hospitality school in Hull College, worked in various restaurants in and around Hull and is now a chef with the rapidly-expanding Shoot the Bull.

He said: “The first time I tried paella I was 11 and there was just something about it. The first time I heard the Spanish language it just gripped me.”

Nick gained a degree in Hispanic studies and immersed himself in Hispanic culture by living in various parts of Spain and teaching cooking and English for a year at a secondary school in Valdepeñas.

He is currently sourcing equipment and ingredients and plans to open The Hispanist in September, creating four to five jobs and with a dining capacity of around 40 on the first floor with a private dining option to be added later on the second floor.

He said: “I’ve just bought a corn mill from Mexico so we can make fresh masa whilst the corn itself comes from farms in Mexico and is as good as you can get.

“Paragon Arcade is the ideal location. I used to pass through it and think I would love to open a place in there and be a part of the community of businesses who are all helping each other out.”

Current tenants in Paragon Arcade include Segals Jewellers, which is celebrating its centenary this year, and PJ Barbers, where the current owner has been cutting hair since 1985. Silver Springs clothing, The Flower Corner and Two Gingers coffee house were also already operating when Allenby Commercial bought the Arcade in 2017 and began the refurbishment which is now about halfway through.

New tenants brought in by the Allenby team include Marla’s Deli, White Rabbit Chocolatiers, 80 Days Bier Markt, Milk hair salon, Belle & Benjamin baby clothing and Koda Interior. The like-minded businesses get together with local landlord Allenby Commercial to host monthly late-night events called “After:Hours” as well as private corporate events.

Georgia Allenby, Design and Marketing Manager at Allenby Commercial, said: “When we bought Paragon Arcade our vision was to provide stylish, functional and affordable units in a fantastic location which would attract quality independent businesses who would work together to create a community feel and bring yet more variety to our city centre. We’re continuing to work towards that.

“Paragon Arcade used to be something people used as a shortcut between Paragon Street and Carr Lane but now it’s a destination in itself. People spend time in it, eating, drinking, browsing and buying. The Hispanist will bring something different yet again, providing an evening economy at the Arcade that will complement venues such as Bonus Arena and Hull City Hall.”

[Phil Ascough – Ascough Associates]

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