Mr Olive Oil
Mehmet Murat Carman’s customers come from all over the world: Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, Brunei. The Clerkenwell businessman also has celebrity fans (among them the actress Siân Phillips and the TV presenter Naomi Cleaver).
Mehmet Murat Carman’s customers come from all over the world: Canada, Puerto Rico, Germany, Brunei. The Clerkenwell businessman also has celebrity fans (among them the actress Siân Phillips and the TV presenter Naomi Cleaver). Even New York Magazine has written about him. But you’d never know it, to visit his tiny electrical shop in Compton Street, seemingly unchanged since he set it up in the early Eighties.
What these customers are after is not something with a fuse or a plug, but Clerkenwell gold: the Turkish-Cypriot’s olive oil, lovingly produced on his two groves, in Cyprus and Turkey, and shipped over to be bottled right here in EC1.
It’s a true labour of love. The Cyprus grove Mem, as he is known, inherited from his parents; the Turkish one, 45 acres in all, paid for by hard graft. They are looked after for him by his brothers-in-law, who send over the oil so that Mem himself can bottle and label it – he does this in the cellar of an old pub he owns, also on Compton Street.
Anyone visiting Embassy Electrical Supplies is generously offered a tasting: the Cyprus oil, named Murat du Carta after Mem’s father (a barber who also sold donkeys to the British Amy, for service in Egypt), having a more peppery taste than the Turkish one, Chateau Carman, which came top in a Guardian review a few years ago. It’s clearly a winner: when I spoke to him, Mem had just taken a large order from someone in the US.
Besides the 5,000 litres of oil he produces a year, Mem sells a host of other grove-grown goodies: preserved lemons, candied walnuts, pomegranate molasses, wild capers… But the unassuming Cyprus-born, London-bred entrepreneur is not stopping there. He’s currently eyeing up a commercial nursery near where he lives in Essex that’s for sale, with a vision of offering a new delicacy: free-range snails. He tells me they taste just like Porcini mushrooms and are particularly good with scrambled egg.
I think I’ll stick to the olive oil, thanks – served, as he recommends: in a dish with a handful of his wild oregano sprinkled in, for dipping crusty bread. Melissa Crowther