Restaurant with Duende: Bringing The Tapas Tradition Back To HanoverAug 24, 2023 01:25PM ● By Kelly Sennott Photography By Lars Blackmore
In Spanish, duende translates to “a quality of passion and inspiration.” If a performer gives you goosebumps, you might say he has duende.
It’s with this energy that Juan and Laura Garceran open Hanover’s new Spanish restaurant, Duende, in the former Candela Tapas Lounge on Lebanon Street. The couple, who are both from Spain, hope the restaurant brings to downtown a different kind of dining experience.
“The term duende
lies at the heart of flamenco and the culture of southern Spain. It is a
strong emotion awakened by the most authentic flamenco artists during moments of their performances,” Juan says. “We chose this name for the restaurant, as we hope to evoke that feeling of authenticity.”
Spanish Culture in the Upper Valley
Juan and his family fell in love with the Upper Valley when they moved here while he was enrolled in Dartmouth’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. They admired the area’s sense of community, its rural lifestyle, and its opportunities for cultural and intellectual engagement. They decided to put down roots and together cofounded the Upper Valley Spanish Institute and the Immersion Montessori School, which offers language immersion in its curriculum.
Juan says everything they’ve done has been in the interest of creating spaces to promote the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. So, when they learned about the closure of the Candela Tapas Lounge, they saw the opportunity to do even more of that by starting a new Spanish restaurant in its place.
“The idea of creating this space emerged very organically when we found out about Candela closing,” Juan says. “Continuing the tradition of tapas in Hanover that Candela started was the main reason behind opening this project in this town.”
Juan says his background is in education and Spanish literature, so to bring the dream of Duende to life, the couple hired an executive chef from Spain who has been working with the staff to create the menu, which is inspired by traditional food from all parts of the country. The goal, Juan says, is to serve the kind of food you’d find at his grandmother’s house. Their empanadilla recipe actually comes from his great-aunt Pepita.
“We aspire for the food at Duende to be as authentic as possible,” says Juan, whose favorite dish on the menu is
salmorejo, a traditional tomato soup from the South of Spain that is topped with extra-virgin olive oil, a boiled egg, and Serrano ham. A paella special will also be a regular part of the menu, but Juan says they’re open to food and drink requests and providing other services, from DoorDash to event catering.
Community Gathering Place
Inside the restaurant, a great deal of work has been done to ensure Duende is a comfortable place to be. The entire kitchen and most furniture have been replaced. Walls have been painted white and splashed with Spanish decor: scarves, framed photos of Spanish artists.
Wine barrels have become bar tables, and all ceramics on display are
for sale and sourced from Spain. In the back corner is a chair and
guitar, where soon there will be live music and flamenco dancing. Out front, the patio has been decorated with potted flowers, new
signage, and new seating.
Though the restaurant has only been open since the spring, Adrianna Kenyon, Duende’s head chef, says the community has been incredibly receptive, with one family visiting every week. She says the front of the house and some kitchen staff are fluent in Spanish, and that guests should feel comfortable speaking it when they walk through the doors.
“You can order in Spanish here, speak in Spanish here—it’s encouraged,”
she says. “The vision is to bring more of this culture to the Upper Valley.”
In addition to restaurant fare, Duende provides lunches at the Immersion Montessori School, which could be anything from gazpacho to Spanish omelets. Juan says they’re looking to expand their offerings and are open to partnering with area schools with Spanish programs or other organizations looking to incorporate Spanish food.
However they evolve, the important thing is to remain authentic, says Juan. Even the service model at Duende is inspired by the tapas tradition, with guests ordering at the bar and staff serving everything at the table, giving customers control of their dining experience.
“Similar to the role that taperias play in Spain as a place for community and gathering, our system encourages guests to flow around the space and to stay as long as they want,” he says. “We make it a priority to create a relaxed environment rather than to turn tables.”
15 Lebanon Street
Wednesday to Sunday, 12–10pm