Anyone local to the area and plenty of those outside of it will be familiar with Zer Café and Juice Bar. With its tasty, freshly made meals, great coffee, light and airy interiors and welcoming staff, it’s become something of a local institution. And the key to that, says owner Kemal Kocadag, is family.
Zer is a family business. Kemal runs it with his wife, Muge. They’re a Turkish couple who met in London at a New Year’s Eve party, and they have two teenaged daughters, one of whom is working in the buzzing café as Kemal and I talk. But it’s also the broader sense of family, in the form of his regulars and the local community, that is so important to Kemal.
‘If you don’t have regulars, it means you’re doing something wrong...and we want our customers to think of this as their second home.’QUOTE: Kemal Kocadag
As 2019 comes around Café Zer enters its sixth year of business, but, as a lot of cafes and restaurants find, it wasn’t plain-sailing to begin with. Woodberry Down was a very different area when Zer first opened for business, undergoing a lot of change, and it was tough at first, but Kemal says, ‘‘The customers really helped in the beginning … We’re very close. Lots of different people come in, and we learn something new from everyone.’
Now, the café is thriving, and is a vital part of the fabric of Woodberry Down. The noticeboard is a sea of local opportunity – from yoga classes to language lessons and everything in between – while Kemal regularly gets involved with the local community, helping Woodberry Down school with their winter festival and running a stall every year at the Hidden River Festival, an event he’s proud to have been involved in since its inception.
‘We’re very happy and pleased to be here, and every day it’s getting better,’ he says. And he doesn’t intend for the business to sit still. A new branch of Zer is in the pipeline, a Mediterranean restaurant nearby, on Woodberry Grove. ‘We know the first year won’t be easy,’ he says, ‘but it’s a nice place and there are nice people in the neighbourhood, so I believe if we do good food people will come, like they support this café.’