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Published: 3 April 2008
Village people score a massive hit

With its rustic interior, welcoming staff and coffee and food of the finest order, My Village is the best thing to ­happen to Camden for a long time, writes Josh Loeb

YOU are looking at history,” explains Salar Hamarash as we gaze at a piece of wood which he says formed part of a 16th-century ship.
It is an object you might expect to find in a museum, not in a café on Chalk Farm Road. But Salar is a perfectionist, and far from being a mere place to refuel, My Village is a true labour of love.
The rustic café, which opened in January, looks a bit like a cross between a French farm and a Middle Eastern tea house.
Hay bales, wooden carts, rakes and sickles decorate its corners, and vines creep over fridges containing olives, hummus and various kinds of yoghurt.
Originally from Iraqi Kurdistan, Salar studied interior design and typography in London after he moved here in 1991, and his artistry is evidenced by his café’s remarkable décor.
Of the coffee, I can’t imagine you can find better in Camden. The freshly baked cakes and cookies are no guilty pleasure, for how can one feel guilty about something that tastes this good?
“When I started I was brave to come to this area,” says Salar when asked about the suitability of his business’s location – between Chalk Farm’s Barfly and Camden Lock.
“I surprised people. This place was dead and the area was known as an awkward place. South of the railway bridge was a golden area, but on this stretch of road 12 shops had closed.”
Salar was brave not only in his choice of location but in the niche market his café occupies and the dogged perfectionism with which he pursued the project.
My Village specialises in vegan, vegetarian and organic food. It was six months in the making, during which time, with the help of friends and his brother, Salar cleared the premises of 10 tonnes of rubbish, installed wooden panels in the ceiling, stripped plaster from walls to expose bricks, built shelves and adorned the space behind the counter with tiles from Iran.
Today, one loses oneself in the intricate details of the finished product, but Salar says My Village will be even better in the months and years to come, with plans to sell alcoholic drinks and Italian and French cheeses.
“At the moment,” he says, “the shop doesn’t make that much money, and it’s a shame to have so much packaged food. We want to provide more of our own food. We will also have an alcohol licence and stay open until a bit later.”
As for drinks currently available at My Village, I heartily recommend the stupendous blend of fresh fruit that is the café’s very own My Village Juice.
The hot chocolate is the best I have ever tasted, and there is an impressive range of speciality herbal teas.
In addition to all this, My Village sells a range of ethical household products, and the friendly staff greet visitors with genuine warmth and generosity.
In case you haven’t noticed, I really like this place. In fact, I think it is the best thing to have happened in this part of Camden for years.
The sheer effort that has gone into creating such a wonderful environment alone makes My Village worth visiting, and when you do, expect a very pleasant experience.

* My Village, 37 Chalk Farm Road, NW1.
Email: hamarashvillage

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