Sometimes things are not exactly what they appear. Fortunately.
Just by turning around the corner, one can leave behind the frantic pace of central London and find the tranquillity of a small village.
Clerkenwell, on the shadows of the imposing Smithfield’s market, where fresh meat is still traded every day at the heart of London’s financial district, is one of those places.
Bricked Victorian houses and narrow alleys spread around the small church square of Clerkenwell Green.
In one of them, at Compton Street, another unexpected turn awaits.
The modest door of an electrical supplies store leads you to a small haven for olive oil lovers.
At Embassy Electrical Supplies, sockets, cables and light bulbs mix with different sizes of bottles of olive oil, packages of black and green olives, olive leaves and an arrange of traditional Cypriot foods and herbs in a seemingly chaotic order that produces a delightful combination.
“Sorry mate, we don’t have any. We sell olive oil instead if you want some,” Mehmet Murat says with a big smile to a bike rider who’s stopped by to ask for some oil for his bicycle.
He is the owner of this eclectic shop and the proprietor of the olive trees fields in Cyprus and Turkey where Murat du Carta olive oil is produced.
Murat speaks with a perfect British accent. Born on the Mediterranean island, he moved with his parents from the Cypriot village of Louroujina to England when he was just five years old.
For decades, electrical supplies were his main trade. And from the counter of his shop, he and his cat Carter — who quietly watches the entrance to the shop — have witnessed much of the city’s rapid transformation.
When Murat opened Embassy Electrical Supplies in 1980, most of his customers came from nearby factories and workshops. This area — often overlooked by tourists — owes much of its urban landscape to the industrial revolution, when it became a hub for watchmakers and jewelers.
Throughout the years, Murat adapted his trade to the needs of the changing face of the area and specialized in tubes and lamps. Clerkenwell is now known for being London’s design and architecture center and it is said to have the highest density of architects in the world.
But arguably the biggest change for Embassy Electrical Supplies happened in 2002 when Mehmet’s father, Murat Suleyman, passed away and he had to take over the olive trees in his home country.
He then decided to bring over his oil to London and start selling it at his shop in Clerkenwell. From then on, olive oil bottles started to pop up among Murat’s cables.
“I knew nothing about producing olive oil. I quickly learned,” he tells Olive Oil Times.
“It’s a lot of work involved and it’s a labor of love. I do love it, but I need a lot of help from immediate family,” he confesses.
Murat’s father, Suleyman, the village’s barber, also traded mules across the island of Cyprus before the moved to Britain.
With the profits, he and his wife Hatice — both pictured on Murat du Carta’s labels — started buying plots of land in Louroujina and planted their first olive trees back in the 50s.
“The olive oil we produce is from the green olives turning purple around October November. It’s produced from what we called the Cyprus olive oil tree,” Murat says.
“We would normally take it to the press almost immediately, within hours. It is pressed for us in the South of the island,” he adds, constantly interrupted by the flow of customers coming in to buy a bottle, a light bulb, or both of them at a time.
Taking care of the olive groves from London is not an easy task, but a rewarding one.
A few years ago, a review in New York Magazine described Murat’s oils as “England’s best.” After that, Murat du Carta has been the subject of write-ups in newspapers and Murat participated on Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course TV show in 2012.
Now, Murat -– with the help of his son in London and his relatives in Cyprus and Turkey — sells all of his oil production of around 5 tons a year both through the internet and at the counter. “We’ve shipped oil to almost every country in the world from this shop,” he says.
But, he points out, the direct contact and feedback from his customers are what he enjoys the most.
Maybe that’s the reason why Embassy Electrics retains the feel of a local shop that seems long gone from many of the chain stores in Central London.
“I’m a few years past retirement age. I could retire and live out, but I enjoy what I do so much, I enjoy bringing over good produce,” he says.
“There’s not a lot of profit in what we do nowadays, but there is a lot of enjoyment,” he concludes.