The Hispanist brings the flavours of Mexico and Spain to Dave Lee’s home turf of Hull.

The Hispanist, Hull
Food100%
Drinks selection80%
Atmosphere80%
Prices80%
85%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
92%

The Hispanist

The story of the destruction of Hull by Axis forces during the Second World War is well enough known. As well as being a target itself, Hull received many of the bombs destined for Leeds and Manchester as they were dropped by floundering German planes that never made their target so gifted their payload to the city during their return home.
Consequently, many of Hull’s city centre buildings were destroyed. Most of them were glorious and built during Hull’s most prosperous years. Relatively undocumented, however, is the tale of the brace of wonderful glass-roofed Victorian shopping arcades that stood bang in the middle of the target area but miraculously managed to avoid being obliterated.
The better-known and bigger of the two – Hepworths Arcade – has seen a welcome increase in interest over recent years but mainly remains home to shops that have never changed in decades. Smaller, but no less beautiful, is Paragon Arcade, which has undergone a dramatic renovation. The marvellous traditional wool and fruit and trinket shops remain but the other units have been populated by much trendier concerns. Most recent to open is homage to Spanish-influenced cuisine, the Hispanist.
Chef Nick Hill studied for a degree in Hispanic studies before becoming a chef. Along with front-of-house partner Alex Spurr, he has designed the Hispanist to offer modern and traditional Spanish, Mexican and Hispanic cuisine. It’s a cracking little set-up which will, I would think, satisfy equally those with only a basic grasp of beach bar food on the costas or foodies who could navigate their way round the trendiest eateries in Havana or Buenos Aires.

Tuberculos y croquetas.

Nearly the whole bottom floor is taken up by the most open kitchen you will see outside of street food. Passing shoppers are faced with the sight of what appears to be nothing but a shop with a working kitchen in it. There is, actually, a small bar with a couple of stools, should you wish to watch as your food is prepped, but most diners make their way to the confined-but-comfy dining space on the first floor. The set-up must ensure serving staff have calves of steel.

Arepa

The menu is changed regularly but usually contains options for tacos, bocadillos (sandwiches), some sort of main-sized meat dish, sides and puds. There’s also a wine, cocktail and beer menu which is just as Latin-tinged as the food.
All the tacos are recommended. They come in pairs and feature things like Mexican fried chicken with burnt corn salsa or beer battered fish with adobo cream.
Favourite among the bocadillos is arepa, which is made of ropa vieja (Cuban for old clothes, apparently) steak topped with an avocado salsa and pickled red cabbage. Everything is meant to be eaten tapas-style, so dishes appear when they’re ready. A pair of tacos and a couple of sides would make a satisfying lunch.
Sides, incidentally, include various croquettes, padron peppers, potato and chorizo dishes and tuberculos, which are roasted Jerusalem artichoke served with roast chicken skin mayo.
There’s no denying that the menu appears limited at first glance but, once you’re actually presented with it, you realise that there is plenty on offer to satisfy. There was only one main meat option available on my visit but presa Iberia (succulent slices of pork served with chimichurri butter and a huge chunk of pork scratching called chicharron) was everything I could possibly have wanted.

Limon

There are a few pudding choices as well, usually of the tart or cake variety. Special mention goes to dulce de leche, and its extraordinary use of caramel buttercream, and to Limon, which is a sweet, light lemon curd topped with sable (cookie) crumb and surrounded by a teepee of salted lime caramel shards.
I’m mightily impressed with the Hispanist. Nick knows exactly what he’s about and Alex – though run off her feet – is doing a grand job. The dishes are fresh and exciting and made with care and skill and the setting is suitably stylish. Of the numerous new restaurants to open in Hull over the past couple of years, it seems to have the best chance of prospering and richly deserves to do so.
■ The Hispanist, Unit 11, Paragon Arcade, Carr Lane, Hull, HU1 3RF. Tel: 07534 776443, www.thehispanist.co.uk. Open: Tuesday and Sunday, 12 to 5pm, Wednesday to Saturday, 12-5pm and 6.30pm till late.

About The Author

Dave Lee

Dave Lee is TV producer and film-maker who also writes on food & drink, travel and culture for various publications. He is a regular contributor on BBC Radio 4 and the Yorkshire Post. Worryingly, he believes that the finest food on earth is the pattie butty.

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