Karl and Debbie Sergison have taken the saying “out with the old, in with the new” to heart at their own corner of Spalding.
After 12 years of Sergi’s Good Food Store, Restaurant and Cookery Store, the couple’s 19th-century business base in Francis Street has been reborn as a slice of Catalonia in South Holland.
It’s a very simple concept which Karl and I got when we went to Barcelona for a weekend last yearDebbie Sergison, Sergi’s Tapas Bar
The result is Sergi’s Tapas Bar, a place for small, savoury dishes, good wine and plenty of time to make friends and slow life down to a more manageable pace.
Debbie said: “It’s a very simple concept which Karl and I got when we went to Barcelona for a weekend last year.
“Customers come in and we say to them ‘go over to the bar and take a photo of the menu on your smartphone’.
“Then we come and take the customer’s order and turn a clothes peg on their table round to red which means ‘I want to be left alone’.
“It’s a Brazilian idea where if you turn the same clothes peg round to green, the restaurant staff automatically serve you with tapas.
“The concept really works and the good thing about it is that we’re using local suppliers, with Bennett’s Butchers of Spalding and Shelly Godfrey both supporting us.”
However, it was as a delicatessen that Karl and Debbie became widely known as a niche, quirky and fashionable establishment to buy, eat and, eventually, cook food.
Debbie said: “Our opening day for the deli was October 24, 2005, which was my daughter Saffron’s seventh birthday.
“We wanted a deli after having run a restaurant in Northern Ireland and it took off so much that our upstairs storeroom had to be refitted as a restaurant which opened in 2007.
“The lucky thing for us is that we opened before the Christmas of 2005 which proved really fruitful for us in that as soon as people tried it, they trusted us.”
Sergi’s Tapas Bar, and Sergi’s Good Food Store before it, are both results of the couple’s long association with the food industry which brought them together at an exclusive men’s club in London nearly 30 years ago.
Debbie said: “In 1988, I arrived in London from Liverpool with my chef’s knives and chef’s whites (overalls).
“I joined a chefs’ agency and, within 15 minutes, I got my first job at the National Liberal Club in Whitehall where Karl was head chef.
“He offered me a job when I was only 17 and this year, we’ll have been married for 22 years.
“In 1999, we moved to Northern Ireland where I was working at a catering college and Karl was working at a brand new venture in Belfast.
“Then the opportunity came up to open a restaurant in a Quaker village called Westbrook where no drinking or gambling was allowed.
“We became the very first restaurant in the village to open as a licensed premises, but when my sister moved back to Liverpool from Northern Ireland, Karl and I moved back to the UK in 2004.”
Shortly after setting up home in Spalding, the couple’s attention was turned to a photographer’s shop in Francis Street that was up for sale after more than 40 years.
Debbie said: “The shop dates back to 1835 and it was originally two shops knocked together, a butcher’s and a pub called A Slice of Beef.
“It’s quite a quirky building and it’s where we opened our cookery school in 2011 so that people could learn how we do things and make our dishes.”
If everything had gone to plan, Karl and Debbie would have been travelling through the south of France and Spalding, having sold the business on at the end of December 2016.
But when the sale collapsed, the tapas bar idea came in its place, allowing Karl and Debbie to open on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from noon until 11pm, and Sundays between noon and 6pm.
Debbie said: We had a preview night on Thursday for all our regular customers who have turned into friends.
“We want the town to have a place where people can sit down, enjoy good food and make new friends.”
The preview night at Sergi’s Tapas Bar was a chance for friends and loyal customers to support Karl and Debbie Sergison’s latest chapter in food excellence.
Close friend Jeff Goodley, of Spalding, said: “My wife and I have known Karl and Debbie Sergison since they first set up business in Spalding about 12 years ago.
“Over the years we have been regular customers and have become firm friends.
“Like many, we were very sad when they originally decided to sell the business but understood why they were doing so.
“Therefore, the decision to rebrand the business and launch Sergi’s Tapas Bar is inspirational and I think it’s just what Spalding needs.
“Karl, Debbie and their team have worked very hard to get the new venture set up and we will certainly remain regular customers and look forward to enjoying their food, along with the amazing ‘taste of Spain’ they have created.”