Meet the Trader: ‘The Mediterranean has a very welcoming restaurant culture… you can always find something’

Levent Gunes, the owner of Chambers. Pic: Ella Tunstall

With bouzouki music playing in the background and two pairs of customers chatting away, Chambers is a friendly, warm invitation to spend a little time in the Mediterranean, but in the middle of Hackney.

Opened in 2010, Chambers serves up authentic dishes from Mediterranean cuisine all week on Lauriston Road, a few steps away from Victoria Park.

Owner, Levent Gunes, a father-of-two, was born in Greece but raised in Turkey and loves the idea of bringing a taste of his mixed heritage to the streets of Hackney. The restaurant is a family affair which Gunes runs with his wife. The homely atmosphere is enhanced by drawings made by his children and the children of customers on the bright yellow painted walls.

“Mediterranean is a very welcoming restaurant culture. So, when you hear that it’s Mediterranean you come in straight away seeing ‘Oh there’s mezes, there’s fish!’ and then the grill. In people’s minds Mediterranean is like, you can always find something. This is what it is.”

Outside Chambers Mediterranean restaurant. Pic: Ella Tunstall

Opening 13 years ago, Chambers serves food all week. From his favourite dishes to serve, chicken casseroles, lamb casseroles and stew, Gunes finds great joy in all he provides his customers, including his homemade sauce provided free of charge. “I like most of the dishes because I like cooking and I like serving. I like this job. I’ve been very humbled to have had this job for 13 years. As soon as people taste the nice, flavoured things you can eat anything. I love it!”

However, the growth of his restaurant hit a standstill among Brexit. “I think the catering businesses are struggling a little bit. It’s really hard to think future aspirations.”

“I think Covid-19 covered up the Brexit issues. We have a really big issue with Brexit so it’s hard to find the stuff, and at the same time technology makes people work from home like the young generations, rather than working in the catering businesses.”

Customers at Chambers. Pic: Ella Tunstall

Gunes questions whether catering has a future without help. “I can see that catering businesses will really, really need help unfortunately.”

He lists the problems restaurants face: “Nobody wants to stay 10+ hours in a business to cook all day long, six days a week. It becomes a really hard job.”

“I think [the food is] slowly going to change to frozen products. It’s already been, I think, 40% [of restaurants] on the market, so there’s 60% of us who are still trying to survive…”

But despite these restrictions, Gunes keeps his hopes up. He still finds the joy in what he does and this family restaurant include his children’s drawings on a yellow panel on the wall, to which customers have added their own. “My kids!” He chuckles. “Well kids are amazing, and they know that this is our restaurant so they can do little simple things. They’d come up and say, ‘Daddy can we please stick these on the walls?’ and I say, ‘Go for it!’”

“Rather than keeping famous people and things I love to keep the kids’ things.”

Drawings Gunes’ children and customers have designed for the restaurant. Including a ‘Best dad ever’ sketch and a Christmas tree. Pic: Ella Tunstall

Chambers is located at 132 Lauriston Rd, Victoria Park Rd, London E9 7LH. Opening hours are 11am-10pm and 10am-10pm on Sundays. Available for dine-in and delivery. More information can be found on their website

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