A classy semi-basement overlooking the street, inviting to gourmet experiences and a perfect venue for workshops, wine testing sessions and get-togethers.
A classy semi-basement overlooking the street, inviting to gourmet experiences and a perfect venue for workshops, wine testing sessions and get-togethers of people eager to tell their stories is the place you must see while in Bucharest. It is a house erected in 1886, located in Spatarului Street, at the very heart of Romania's capital city, wich hosts this charming semi-basement, aimed to host some private and memorable meetings. This exclusivist place, called Espace Minoux, is nothing like other venues in Bucharest, because it was created for only one category of people: those who say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Our host, Razvan Voiculescu, a professional photographer, tells us more about Espace Minoux:
“Espace Minoux is a tiny cultural space created inside a heritage house which was in a pathetic state when I purchased it. It was home to negligent people and unattended children who destroyed everything inside. So I decided to fully restore it, I repeat, restore it, and not repair it. I succeeded in restoring even the most difficult elements, such as the glazed tile stoves and some brick vaults in the semi-basement on which I had found blotted cardboard plates. I’m surprised they were still intact. I succeeded in recovering the mosaic at the semi-basement, which is the original one. I want to host small cultural events there, to make it known as a special place for special people. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, but I want this place to become popular with people able to understand its beauty.”
It’s been only three years since Razvan Voiculescu opened the glass doors of the first floor of the house. Behind those doors one may have the surprise to discover a genuine art gallery, with a permanent exhibition of 20 of the best bronze works by sculptor Anca Sarbulescu. This mini-exhibition has been included in the circuit of Bucharest’s art galleries, thanks to Razvan Voiculescu and his friends. The semi-basement has been equipped with 35 chairs for the guests. It’s only 35 chairs because he didn’t want the place to be crowded.
One of the events hosted here was a concert by Nicu Alifantis, one of Romania’s popular singer songwriters, who is so special and original that you can hardly hope to have such an intimate meeting. On a March evening, on Spatarului Street, Alifantis sang some of his most beautiful songs for two hours and told the audience about his ongoing tour and about his beloved musical instruments. He performed without microphones, without flashlights, just as he would normally do for friends. And this is not the only event venued by Razvan Voiculescu’s house, as he himself confesses:
“There are small companies that come here and rent the space, on condition that I like their concept, what they plan to do here. Parenting courses, for instance, are being held here every month. As a host, I listen to the discussions and I find them pertinent. The psychologist who delivers the courses practically opens the parents’ minds, telling them what they generally do wrong. Usually it’s only parents who come, but sometimes children join them and they play together in order to harmonize their relationship.”
There are many other types of meetings, the evenings devoted to gourmands being greatly appreciated:
“We pick a chef who must not necessarily have any Michelin stars, but he must have vocation. The first one we invited is named Mircea Groza and he is from the town of Zalau, in northwestern Romania. When it comes to cooking, the dishes he prepares are absolutely divine. His ‘soup’, always made in a tin kettle, can by no means be made in less than two hours. He uses so many ingredients that it’s hard to tell what exactly you’re eating. The food, however, it’s so tasty because he never uses ingredients bought from the supermarket. He has his own suppliers, small producers who make cheese and even salami and sausages – a few kilograms a day. It’s all hand-made, no technology is used. They make everything themselves and deliver their products to restaurants who want quality food. Vegetables are also from a certain category of suppliers, who have vegetable gardens where you can see that the veggies are imperfect, because no artificial fertilizers are used. Mircea Groza is a gastronomy poet and also a cultivated man. It’s a real pleasure to listen to him talking about gastronomy and the history of his native Zalau area.”
Espace Minoux has its own Facebook page where it advertises all the events that it venues, on a first-come first-served basis. There are also exceptions made exclusively by Razvan Voiculescu:
“There are people who just write to me ‘I want two tickets’. Nothing else. I don’t even bother to answer, even if I know that the one who wrote this will take one of the 35 vacant seats. I never answer this type of messages. A simple ‘I want’, without ‘hello’ and without ‘thank you’ gives me an unpleasant feeling. It’s disrespectful. For this reason, they’re not welcome. Fortunately, most of the people who come here know how to say ‘good morning’, and ‘thank you’, and they begin their sentence with ‘Could I”, and not with “I want”. The more polite they are, the more pleasure it gives me to tell them they have the seats booked. Many of them are left without seats though, because there are only 35 chairs and more than 200 people who want them. So I go by the ‘first – come, first – served’ rule, and don’t accept the impolite ones.”
Espace Minoux is not a bar; it’s neither a restaurant, nor a club. With a bit of luck, you can visit the place yourselves. But don’t forget to use the magic words: Hello’ and ‘thank you’.