Dining with the 5 senses
Spoonik is a new and innovative gastronomic experience that is founded on a simple yet genuine premise, a sincere love of good food. Located on Plaza Lesseps (within one of the few remaining houses) the setting is almost theatrical. sophisticated gastronomy served on handcrafted Luesma & Vega tableware within a refurbished interior loft like space with an impressive private art collection and a lush private garden at the front. The creative and entrepreneurial driving forces behind this new venture are Jon Giraldo and Jaime Lieberman. Jon, Colombian by birth, has lived in Barcelona since he was 19 where he trained at some of its best cookery schools like BellArt, Hofmann and Can Roca. Jaime was born in Mexico City Capital, and also started his career in Barcelona, working at renowned institutions like Hofmann, Yann Duytsche, Saüc, the Hotel Arts and Ramón Freixa Madrid. B-Guided recently met Jon and Jaime at Spoonik.
Spoonik is an exceptionally personal project where art and gastronomy are combined in a home, in fact the restaurant is located in your living room where you invite customers to dine. How do you draw the line between work and life in terms of your own personal lives or is there a distinction as far as you are concerned?
Jaime: Right now it doesn’t exist (laughs)..
Jon: We don’t really see Spoonik as a job, Spoonik is a way of expressing our nonconformity with the world of gastronomy, with current restaurant trends. We thought that it needed a change, we weren’t sure what exactly and it’s not like we think we have a divine answer to a new gastronomy, but we did think that the change would have to be subversive and we’ve achieved that by converting our home into a gastronomic experience ... That dividing line doesn’t exist, bear in mind that we begin cooking on Wednesday mornings till midnight preparing the basics and then the following Thursday the other cooks appear who’ll stay till late Saturday night, it’s non-stop and they’re here in our house the whole time, and either we are working on Spoonik or Wondays (a new project for a chain of yoghurt parlours)… Which right now is all mixed up together, but we really enjoy it!
But do you think that it could become too much in the future or is it already?
Jon: I wouldn’t say it’s too much because we are passionate about Spoonik, normally things become too much when you don’t like what you’re doing. What is clear is that Spoonik as it is today, in our home, will not be an indefinite arrangement. It’s a gastronomic proposal but more than anything else it’s a pop-up. Right now it exists, we don’t know how long it’ll go on for but when it comes to an end we’ll evolve into something else.
Sometimes I think it’s important to have a break in order to feed the imagination or just to relax ...
Jon: Well, our imaginations are fired through working. I think that any professionals working in the creative fields are inspired through working. You haven’t tried the new menu, have you? People who have say that it’s 200 times better than the previous one and that could only come about through work and more work… We love this house, we have no intention of moving although it would be good to have a place to take a break when Spoonik is open.
Interaction with the customer/diner is an important aspect of what you do here in terms of sitting at each table and explaining each course and communicating with your public. Do you consider this a vital component to the appreciation of food that is often missing in other restaurants?
Jaime: Absolutely, as well as carefully selecting all the ingredients we use we’re also interested in making sure that the clients know all about what they’re eating, we have samples of all the different vegetables and fruits (we use), we explain about cooking techniques like the temperature, the processes and the times, it’s a continual process of looking after the client giving them all the info they need so they understand what they’re eating. We go through all the details.
Jon: There’s something very significant about human communication, about 30% of it is verbal and 70% is non-verbal. A well trained waiter can get across what each dish is made from using words and the client will understand, but it’s impossible for that waiter to transmit what the chef felt while creating the dish, the inspiration, that has to come from the creator. When Jaime or myself arrive at a table and say to the client, “this is the Primavera (a dish off the current menu) that this or that inspired us, and that these are the products we used because they are this or that ….” It’s our expression that makes the difference between a client saying “you’ve made my day” instead of “that’s really good.”
Jaime: It’s easier to be more intimate with the client here than in a normal restaurant.
Jon: We think that what we do here is more an artistic project which goes beyond gastronomy. Art requires a narrative and here at Spoonik everything has a story behind it. Take say the water you’re drinking right now we call it ‘Agua Feliz’ (laughs). The maker of these bottles has aligned them with the positive energy of the universe. The bottles have been engraved with patterns which in theory channel the energy of the universe through the water with a message of love. (laughs)
Are they refillable?
Jaime: Do you know the Japanese artist who investigates water?
Jon: What we do is fill these bottles with mineral water and let them settle for a day. Someone who researched this placed water in a normal glass bottle and exactly the same sort of water into one of these Flasks, they were photographed and it was noticed that the water in the Flasks maintained the correct structure while the other water didn’t, it had become unstructured which is normally how mineral water is served. So this is just another narrative. The Primavera dish has its own narrative, the plate it's served on, the ingredients ... So it has the lighting. the music, the lyrics of that music. the performance.
Being a good chef is a different thing than being a good communicator, here they’re both brought together ... Do you have repeat customers?
Jon: We’ve been open for three months now and have had some clients come back ten times already with ten different groups, and they’re happy, staying on till 4 in the morning and leaving happy. Then there’s another customer who comes every 2 weeks.
What you do here could be legitimately called a Gestamkunstwerk the idea of a total work of art which the diner is surrounded by, involving all the senses as the evening progresses. The aesthetic experience (the presentation of the food and the table ware), the building itself, the art collection and the performance aspect in combination – does this heightened awareness of the senses have an impact on actual taste of the food here? To what extent can Spoonik be understood as theatre or performance rather than merely a restaurant?
Jaime: It’s more like an artistic performance really ..
Jon: you know that saying about beauty being in the eye of the beholder ... When people who know something about good food come here they focus on the food. When they are not so much interested in the food but appreciate the aesthetic then they tend to focus on the house, the space, the music or the performance …Nobody so far has been left unmoved. As chefs we feel fulfilled because we are preparing good food and the critical response to the gastronomy has been so positive. But in reality we wanted a space where all the various elements are treated the same. A high level of artistic performance, an excellent gastronomic offering .. We’ve often been in places where the various elements have not been equally well achieved.
Is it possible then to see Spoonik as a critique on current gastronomy?
Jamie: Not a critique, just a new proposition.
Jon: Definitely a new proposition. There are thousands of chefs in the world who do a good job of feeding their customers well, I don’t think there is any other city where it’s possible to eat as well as in Barcelona. It’s not a criticism but an alternative to the typical gastronomic restaurant that exists nowadays.
Jaime: We really love the fact that we are remembered. We’ve been told by clients that we made them feel really good like when you see the Cirque du Soleil and it stays with you for the entire week. That’s happening with us with groups of friends who are using Spoonik to surprise their friends and brining them to this really exclusive venue (laughs) …. And that’s a challenge for us!
How often is the menu changed?
Jon: Every two months, more or less.
What does the word Spoonik mean and how did you come up with it?
Jon: Nameworks came up with it for us. They are experts at naming and also friends of ours. They’ve dined in our house quite a few times and wanted to make a present of the name to us. It started off with Sputnik, the first mission into space and of course what does one find in space but a lot of stars which are related to gastronomy nowadays, it’s a way of awarding – so it started with the stars and later mutated into ‘spoon’, and the English word ‘unique’ like unique spoon a play on words. It’s sputnik, it’s spoon and it’s unique.
Although you both have trained extensively in Barcelona at some of its most emblematic restaurants you are both from South America originally, what aspects of Spoonik can be traced back to those origins and which can be attributed to here?
Jaime: That can be perfectly appreciated on our new menu! (laughs)
Jon: We try to feature more recipes and ingredients from our own countries, that idea of applying techniques and ingredients from there with locally sourced products form here. I’d describe one dish the ‘ajiaco’ for example. Ajiaco is a Colombian soup made using potatoes, potatoes are originally from the Andes, soups are not as popular here as they are there (South America) so we deconstructed the dish. That deconstruction is Catalan, molecular cooking started off here, so we converted the soup into something solid to be eaten with a fork and a spoon. We prepare textures of potatoes with chicken but instead of shredded chicken normally used in ajiaco here we cook it in butter which is a typically Mediterranean way of cooking, in this specific case French.
The latest generation of Barcelona restaurants have assimilated the idea of sustainable cuisine, Km0, working with seasonal produce (in no small part facilitated by the city’s food markets and the Llobregat area) how then would you differentiate the gastronomic offering at Spoonik? How would you define its gastronomy?
Jon: We put the emphasis on vegetables. At Spoonik a typical dish involves vegetables with a meat garnish or it’s 100% vegetable, while normally here in Spain it’s the other way around. We use them instead of meat proteins. We have dishes which are 100% vegetarian like the Primavera or the Otoño. There’ll always be a shellfish dish on the menu, a dish that is 100% vegetable and a white meat dish, a fish and red meat option.
The only option here for customers is the sampling menu or tasting menu?
Jon: Yes, it’s a closed menu. You can let us know your allergies, preferences, etc. before making a reservation. But we simply can’t offer a menu with a lot of choices on it with everyone ordering whatever they want.
Can you describe how you source the wine selection at Spoonik and how does it reflect local wine culture here in Catalonia?
Jon: In general the wines are sourced from Catalonia, right now we have a verdejo as an alternative to white but that’s it. They are chosen for their quality-price relation, enjoyable wines, with body and well integrated … Our wine supplier was my oenology professor, Lluís Manel Barba and he recommends the wines according to the menu.
Tell us about the new Yoghurt Parlour Wondays? I think I’ve seen about 5 or 6 new parlours open in Barcelona over the last 12 months.
Jon: True, but how many are gourmet? That’s going to be the difference with ours. There are two ways of making frozen yoghurt, one is to dry the yoghurt, turn it into powder and make ice-cream with that. But that’s not really frozen yoghurt it’s ice-cream with yoghurt flavour, yoghurt ice-cream with all the calories of ice-cream but without the health benefits of yoghurt because once it’s dried out the live cultures are killed off, the bacteria, the bifidus, the L Casei Inmunitas ….I’d say that 95% of Barcelona’s yoghurt parlours use powdered yoghurt. On the other hand there is 100% yoghurt using living bacteria that can then be emulsified in the frozen yoghurt vending machine. The profits are reduced because the product is more expensive and has a more limited shelf life but it’s a quality product. With Wondays the provider will be delivering on a daily basis.
Then there’s our toppings which are completely homemade, we’ll be making versions of famous desserts like Lemon Pie, Tiramisu and desserts created by us like our version of Tarte Tatin or the Rooibos bush tea syrup which is used as a topping. The other interesting thing about Wondays is that we can offer one of Barcelona’s few ‘green’ terraces to our customers, 700 sq.m. of grass – the idea is that we lend a picnic blanket to customers who return it afterwards. So our slogan is going to be “Have a picnic in the park!”
It seems odd that after creating something like Spoonik you are now about to launch a project like Wondays, which if I’m right is meant to be a franchise?
Jon: Wondays is a registered franchise but if it grows beyond 10 or 15 establishments that would be like a factory and we wouldn’t be interested any more. You’ve met us here at Spoonik where everything is meticulous and so it will be for Wondays too. What interests us is looking after all the details and the quality of what we do.
- Tasting menu consisting of 8 couses with wine for a limited number of guests.
- Open only on Friday and Saturday (or any other day of the week for bookings of 6 or more)
- T. + 34 648 085 208