Meet the Traders: Portuguese friends showcase their love affair with London

Olga Cruchino, left, and Dina Martins, right, at A Portuguese Love Affair café and deli in Hackney Road. Pic: Susana Bessa

Sitting amid a string of colourful houses in Colombia Road in Hackney, A Portuguese Love Affair is the tribute to the home country of the owners.

The shop’s owners, Olga Cruchino and Dina Martins, spoke to Eastlondonlines about their aptly named love letter to the native country, which sells Portuguese beauty products, foodstuffs and ceramics.

“This project is definitely a never-ending courtship with our country,” said Cruchino.

Cruchino, 42, and her childhood friend Martins, 41, opened the shop four years ago; in December they added a café and deli in nearby Hackney Road.

A Portuguese Love Affair in Colombia Road. Pic: Susana Bessa

Both in the shop and in the café an array of Portuguese products, ranging from traditional to contemporary, are offered. They include beauty products, wine and jam, clothing, books and ceramics, all displayed with a sense of pride in their country of origin.

“When we first opened, people’s reaction to this world we curated was curious, to say the least. They either felt an immediate connection to it or they really did not like it. There were a lot of visitors that just did not understand what they were walking into when they entered the shop,” Cruchino recalled.

Some of the shop’s products. Pic: Susana Bessa

The same goes for the recently opened café and deli, with its pastries, cakes and coffee.

A Portuguese Love Affair café and deli. Pic: Susana Bessa

Olga and Dina, residents of the city of London for nine and thirteen years respectively, immigrated to England in search of a better tomorrow. With backgrounds in jornalism, education and design, they worked within their fields until the opportunity to create this project, a business venture that could truly reunite them with their country of origin, arose.

“It is very simply a case of saudade,” Martins said, using the untranslatable Portuguese word for an overwhelming sentiment of brooding exile and homesickness . “It is crucial that one does not forget one’s roots. When you’re left with nothing, at least you have a place in your heart to help you carry on forward,” she added.

“The name [of the shop] is a part of that. It works because it tells a story and I believe that that is why it attracts people,” Cruchino said.

Tricana canned fish from Lisbon sitting in one of the shelves.      Pic: Susana Bessa

The pair also organise events in the shop and deli. Wine tastings, poetry readings, book launches, art exhibitions and traditional Portuguese parties are some that have taken place in the past. “We welcome any opportunity to engage with the community,” Cruchino added.

The inside of the shop. Pic: Susana Bessa

You can find the shop at 142 Columbia Rd and the café – deli at 326 Hackney Road.

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