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At Embassy Electrical Supplies

April 26, 2013
by the gentle author

Mehmet Murat

It comes as no surprise to learn that at Embassy Electrical Supplies in Clerkenwell, you can buy lightbulbs, fuses and cables, but rather more unexpected to discover that, while you are picking up your electrical hardware, you can also purchase olive oil, strings of chili peppers and pomegranate molasses courtesy of the Murat family groves in Cyprus and Turkey.

At certain fashionable restaurants nearby, “Electrical Shop Olives” are a popular feature on the menu, sending customers scurrying along to the Murats’ premises next morning to purchase their own personal supply of these fabled delicacies that have won acclaim in the global media and acquired a legendary allure among culinary enthusiasts.

How did such a thing come about, that a Clerkenwell electrical shop should be celebrated for olive oil? Mehmet Murat is the qualified electrician and gastronomic mastermind behind this singular endeavour. I found him sitting behind his desk at the rear of the shop, serving customers from his desk and fulfilling their demands whether electrical or culinary, or both, with equal largesse.

“I am an electrician by trade,” he assured me, just in case the fragrance of wild sage or seductive mixed aromas of his Mediterranean produce stacked upon the shelves might encourage me to think otherwise.

“I arrived in this country from Cyprus in 1955. My father came a few years earlier, and he got a job and a flat before he sent for us. In Cyprus, he was a barber and, according to our custom, that meant he was also a dentist. But he got a job as an agent travelling around Cyprus buying donkeys for Dr Kucuk, the leader of the Turkish Cypriots at that time – the donkeys were exported and sold to the British Army in Egypt. What he did with the money he earned was to buy plots of land around the village of Louroujina, where I was born, and plant olive saplings. He and my mother took care of them for the first year and after that they took care of themselves. Once they came to the UK, they asked relatives to watch over the groves. They used to send us a couple of containers of olive oil for our own use each year and sold the rest to the co-operative who sold it to Italians who repackaged it and sold it as Italian oil.

I trained as an electrician when I left school and I started off working for C.J. Bartley & Co in Old St. I left there and became self-employed, wiring Wimpy Bars, Golden Egg Restaurants and Mecca Bingo Halls. I was on call twenty-four hours and did electrical work for Faye Dunaway, the King of Jordan’s sister and Bill Oddie, among others. Then I bought this shop in 1979 and opened up in 1982 selling electrical supplies.

In 2002, when my father died, I decided I was going to bring all the olive oil over from Louroujina and bottle it all myself, which I still do. But when we started getting write-ups and it was chosen as the best olive oil by New York Magazine, I realised we had good olive oil.  We produce it as we would for our own table. There is no other secret, except I bottle it myself – bottling plants will reheat and dilute it.

If you were to come to the village where I was born. you could ask any shopkeeper to put aside oil for your family use from his crop. I don’t see any difference, selling it here in my electrical shop in Clerkenwell. It makes sense because if I were to open up a shop selling just oil, I’d be losing money. The electrical business is still my bread and butter income, but many of the workshops that were my customers have moved out and the Congestion Charge took away more than half my business.

Now I have bought a forty-five acre farm in Turkey. It produces a thousand tons of lemons in a good year, plus pomegranate molasses, sweet paprika, candied walnuts and chili flakes. We go out and forage wild sage, wild oregano, wild St John’s wort and wild caper shoots. My wife is there at the moment with her brother who looks after the farm, and her other brother looks after the groves in Cyprus.”

Then Mehmet poured a little of his precious pale golden olive oil from a green glass bottle into a beaker and handed it to me, with instructions. The name of his farm, Murat Du Carta, was on the label beneath a picture of his mother and father. He explained I was to sip the oil, and then hold it in my mouth as it warmed to experience the full flavour, before swallowing it. The deliciously pure oil was light and flowery, yet left no aftertaste on the palate. I picked up a handful of the wild sage to inhale the evocative scent of a Mediterranean meadow, and Mehmet made me up a bag containing two bottles of olive oil, truffle-infused oil, marinated olives, cured olives, chili flakes and frankincense to carry home to Spitalfields.

We left the darkness of the tiny shop, with its electrical supplies neatly arranged upon the left and its food supplies tidily stacked upon the right. A passing cyclist came in to borrow a wrench and the atmosphere was that of a friendly village store. Outside on the pavement, in the sunshine, we joined Mark Page who forages truffles for Mehmet, and Mehmet’s son Murat (known as Mo). “I do the markets and I run the shop, and I like to eat,” he confessed to me with a wink.

Carter, the electrical shop cat

From left to right, Mark Page (who forages truffles), Murat Murat (known as Mo) and Mehmet Murat.

Embassy Electical Supplies, 76 Compton St, Clerkenwell, EC1V 0BN

8 Responses leave one →
  1. The budding chef permalink
    April 26, 2013

    Ive been buying from Embassy for many years and hope to continue to do so.

    Highly recommend ALL mems products. They are truly superior. For once i agree with Gordon Ramsay!. checkout http://www.mroliveoil.com more ratings and reviews.

    You cannot find better and you will not find nicer people in london.

    Thumbs up guys. see you soon

  2. Cate permalink
    April 26, 2013

    Amazing post. I will make a special trip there to buy some of their products.

  3. Cherub permalink
    April 26, 2013

    I was interested to see pomegranite molasses on the list. I bought this a few years ago, but really had no idea what to use it for, perhaps someone could point me in the right direction?

    I tried using it as a cordial mixed with sparkling water and a slice of lemon which was nice, but I’d like to know about cooking with it.

  4. Cate permalink
    April 28, 2013

    You can use the molasses to marinade things like chicken.

  5. April 28, 2013

    many thanks for the write up and the replies it is always very much appreciated, and makes me feel that what i do is worth while

    in reply to Cherub regarding pomegranate molasses my suggestions are as follows
    use as a salad dressing with olive oil, especially on a freshly grated carrot salad

    drizzle on your ice cream

    dip your strawberries in

    marinate your chicken in a mixture of pomegranate molasses and olive oil prior to bbq ing or grilling

    add to stews

    if you are cooking venison add a little to the drippings and use as a sauce to pour over the carved venison, it would also work with duck

    mix it 50/50 with salgam which is the fermaented juice of the pickled turnip and pour over grilled onions (salgam is available from most Turkish shops it is available mild or with chilli)
    in Turkey where i produce the pomegranate molasses, it is also known as black lemon juice
    please note that i am currently out of stock but am expecting a delivery in late may
    i hope the above is of help to you
    best regards mem

  6. Tim permalink
    April 28, 2013

    I used to work a few door down from this shop and bought stuff from it regularly….that was before 2000 though, so the only oil I remember there was 3 in 1! …..I’m glad it’s still there though; so many similar places have closed.

  7. mark page permalink
    May 1, 2013

    Yes, i remember the ole hardware shops. i think they say “no call for it” now.

    seemingly i use that phrase out of irony all too often these days.

    Its a matter time until all these shops become solicitors and estate agents. plenty of call for them apparently!

    Keep it up Mem, Mo et al.

  8. Teresa Stokes permalink
    May 18, 2013

    I called in this week just in case the pomegranate molasses was ready. It wasn’t, but I bought the candied walnuts and some marinaded olives, delicious. I had a long chat with Mehmet who told me how after a good review of their oil the Daily Mail offered him a cut-price advertising space as if it were a great favour. He told the Mail that there was no point as it would clean him out of his stock. So bring some in from outside, they said. He had to explain that the whole point was it was his own oil from his own farm. (Duh!) Anyway he never needs to advertise!

    I also met their beautiful pussycat, a little shy, but who let me scratch its head.

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