Raul Cabrera moves from behind the pass to proudly stand beneath the terracotta orange feature wall at the front of his restaurant - the one hung with the ornate beaten brass plates, fish shaped dishes, and decorative lobster and cock shaped cake pans.
If it were not for his thick shock of salt and pepper hair and veiled enervate eyes, Cabrera's lean and youthful looks certainly belie the decade he has spent owning and operating Bocados, a Spanish restaurant and tapas bar on King Street in the East End.
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For 10 years running, Bocados has been one of Newcastle's most consistently delicious places to meet, eat, drink, and be merry, regardless of the style or mode of cuisine.
That's no mean feat in an often fickle city dining scene that loves its fly-by-night flavours of the month.
But, Cabrera knows Newcastle, having lived here since he was a boy.
"My parents are Peruvian, and they were renowned for hosting big parties, and entertaining their guests with music and cooking lots of good food," Cabrera says. "Mum was always cooking something delicious, and I couldn't wait to eat whatever she had cooked . . . Sometimes, I would eat until I was rolling on the floor holding by belly, hurting from being so full!"
With a childhood like that, opening a South-American-themed restaurant would seem like the obvious career move for a young man of Raul's blood type to want to pursue. The idea, however, for what would eventually become Bocados first began as a fledgling dream to become a chef, via a relinquished degree in engineering.
"I was good at maths and I used to think I wanted to become an engineer, so I did a course in engineering" Cabrera says. "Once I started studying, however, I got bored easily and found that it wasn't something I wanted to pursue."
Somewhere coursing through Cabrera's veins were the echoes of the parties his parents would host when he was young. The energetic rhythm of the music, the intoxicating flavours of the foods, the drinks, the atmosphere, the hospitality. All of it.
"I told my parents that I wanted to become a chef," Cabrera says. "I applied for a job as an apprentice chef at Kitami, when it was open on Darby Street, and they asked me, 'Why do you want to be a chef? It's really poor money and you'll earn more as an engineer', but I remember saying to them, 'I don't care about the money, I want to go on an adventure with this cooking career'."
It's been quite the adventure since. Cabrera's call to home came when he was gifted a book; MoVida: Spanish Culinary Adventures by Frank Camorra. In it was page after page of incentive and inspiration, picture upon picture of revelation, coupled with various versions and variations of recipes straight from the days his childhood and his mother's cooking.
"Frank Camorra quickly became my new hero and I was inspired to open a Spanish restaurant in Newcastle," he says.
"To be honest, the East End was a pretty barren place for restaurants back then. But it was also primed for good food places to start opening up, and I knew that if I opened anything I needed to be the best, to be consistent, and always aim to over deliver every time to my customers."
I knew that if I opened anything I needed to be the best, to be consistent, and always aim to over deliver every time to my customers.Raul Cabrera
It's a strategy many new restaurants aim to implement but rarely ever seem to achieve.
There's a reason Cabrera's customers keep coming back to Bocados, and, it's just a guess, but it may have something to do with the special house paella that's always heaving with hunks of chicken, chunks of spicy chorizo, and heaps of fleshy flavoursome mussels and prawns.
"The consistency of our food and our service has been our secret these last 10 years," Cabrera says. "I can't ever be grateful enough to the amazing staff and loyal customers of Bocados who now inspire me to carry on cooking good food in a party atmosphere, like I had when I was growing up."
Celebrate 10 years of Bocados from Monday, with specials and events, including an outdoor barbecue party on Sunday, July 29.