Sheila Fernández Martinez

Jewelry Designer
Bilbao, Spain

Sheila next to el rio Nervion

Rewind three months, I was freshly arrived in Bilbao, wandering the narrow streets and looking for refuge, that is, a nook with coffee and internet. Like a mosquito to a buzzy lamp, I was drawn to a light and airy cafe called ikas HUB.  That’s where I met Sheila, who welcomed me with her characteristic warm smile.  Sheila is one of the creative forces behind ikas HUB, as well as a jewelry designer, food lover and wanderlust like myself. Originally from Asturias, she’s also lived in Madrid, Scotland, Australia and currently, Bilbao.

I was lucky to catch Sheila to do the B2S questionnaire before she heads off to enjoy a well-deserved vacation on the beaches of Malaga, followed by an educational retreat in a remote location in the Czech Republic, sans electricity. Girlfriend has an adventurous spirit. Hablamos!

Coffee or tea?

Definitely coffee. I’m a coffee lover. I need a coffee, and I say I need it, in the morning to be a person, to wake up. And then I like coffee during the day, a lot of coffee. But I had to stop when I moved to Australia because coffee was very expensive there. But here in Spain, the good thing is that a coffee is very cheap. Even if you pay “a lot” for a coffee, it’s still cheap. But in Australia, I started to drink more tea or just water, so I reduced my coffee moments during the day.

Beer or wine?

I think about wine in the winter, I think about beer in the summer. But I don’t really like beer. I think it’s refreshing but I don’t understand much about beer and I don’t know how to drink beer. So every time I think about drinking beer because I’m thirsty in the summer, I drink it with lemon, “clara con limón”. Here in the Basque country, it’s called “pika”. (B2S: like lemon soda?) Yes, like Fanta. When I went to Scotland, people were laughing at me, like “What are you doing with your beer? Adding lemon? That’s a soft drink!” But if I don’t have lemon with the beer, I don’t really like beer, I prefer wine. So wine wins. Red wine.

Describe your typical breakfast.

I don’t have a typical breakfast. I sleep a lot, so I prefer sleeping to having breakfast. I’m very bad, I know that’s wrong. So, when I do have a little bit of time, I like to have coffee, of course, with some fruit and then I have two options. I have toast with tomato and a little bit of olive oil or I have something that my father sends me from Asturias called “sobao”. A sobao is like a big muffin, the word in Spanish is “magdalena”. It’s similar to a sponge cake and the flavor is like a magdalena, very buttery.

What is your earliest food-related memory?

When I was a kid I didn’t like eating anything, and I remember my parents forcing me to taste different things, to try to eat more. I remember in school, every time it was lunchtime, I knew my lunchtime would take forever. Everyone else would eat and go play, and I was eating and eating and trying to eat, and I could never play. Because I would be there, sitting with my food and I couldn’t eat, and I had to eat or I couldn’t play. But somehow, suddenly, I can’t remember the transition, I started to love food.  When I say love, I mean really love food. And I started to love cooking. I have a younger sister and when my parents went out, to the cinema for example, I started cooking her simple things. I felt very grownup [laughs]. Something must have just clicked.

Describe your ideal sandwich.

My ideal sandwich is open[-faced]. I had it in a cafe in the Centennial Park in Sydney and I never had anything like that after that time. I remember that sandwich like a dream. It had arugula with smoked salmon and eggs, the eggs were … (B2S: scrambled?) No. (B2S: hard-boiled?) No. (B2S: poached?) Poached? Hmmm, I don’t remember the name … (B2S: you drop the egg in boiling water and it stays soft on the inside?) You do it with a little bit of vinegar as well? (B2S: Uh-huh.) Yes! With a sauce which is called “salsa bearnesa” in Spanish.

Where would you travel to eat?

Thailand would be my destination for eating. It’s the perfect combination of amazing ingredients, spicy foods, sweet and sour flavors, beautiful dishes… I love it because it is perfect for a pescatarian like me.  And if I feel like experimenting with cooking myself, I could mix a lot of things that look delicious from the street stalls in every market.  It is alive, colorful, tasty, magic.  I would love to go back to Thailand and explore more of their hidden food treasures.

Name 5 people you would invite to a dinner party.

I would want people for talking and sharing and having fun. I would like to invite my yoga teacher in Glasgow because she’s a cook and a very good one. Of course, I would like to have my boyfriend there, because I like to share those moments with him. I would invite my friends from Australia … I would use the dinner party to invite my friends all over the world. So I guess it would be more than 5. And ideally my yoga teacher from Glasgow.

What are you in the mood to eat right now?

I think I would eat some sushi. The last time I had sushi was in a really good place in Bilbao – it’s called Shibui. That’s the best place here to try sushi. It’s very, very good and very, very expensive, but I was celebrating my friend’s birthday and we went there for dinner. And noodles as well – satay noodles. It’s Malay – with peanuts and I don’t know what else … sugar and soy sauce and a mix of things. Yea, I would eat that.

outside of Baobab in Bilbao

Visit Sheila’s Etsy page


What’s a sobao?


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