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215 Hackney: the story behind the kindness

Mehmet Cetin and Ali Kalkan (two of the three owners of 215 Hackney)

Giving back to the community is an intrinsic part of life for the team at 215 Hackney.


The café on Stoke Newington High St recently launched a soup kitchen – serving hot soup and stews with rice for free to anyone in need on Tuesday afternoons. It’s the latest in a string of big charitable initiatives for this independent business. 


They’ve also been major donors to the charity War Child (a charity supporting vulnerable refugee children) and, during lockdown, they provided more than 6,500 hot meals to NHS staff.


The business is run by friends Mehmet Cetin, Cemal Polat and Ali Kalkan – their Kurdish parents lived through extreme hardship and persecution in Turkey and moved here in the 90s.


Mehmet, 29, said: “We are carrying on what our parents taught us. They went through hard times so know how it feels.  They came here to give us better opportunities and it’s right that we reflect on that and support others.  It’s in our backgrounds to always give back to the community.  I think they’re proud about what we’re doing.

“We wanted to support homeless people and people in need during this economic crisis and do more to help local people in need. One day a week, on a Tuesday, we close early and from 4pm till 7pm open as a kitchen offering free hot soup and a bottle of water.  It’s early days but I hope word will get around.   We’ve had some lovely feedback from the community – the people we support are surprised and grateful when they see what we offer.


“This isn’t soup made of surplus food, We shop especially – I buy meat at the local butcher and vegetables from Nature N16 next door.  We serve vegetarian soup, rice, salad and a stew.


“We’re also getting an awning made so people can have shelter while they wait.”


While Cemal, Ali and Mehmet are of Kurdish descent, their menu is inspired by food from across the Middle East.


Mehmet added: “I’m the biggest foodie and am constantly coming up with menu ideas – I pass them on to our chefs to develop and every so often am in the kitchen.”


215 Hackney has also launched a £5 menu to allow people to continue to eat out during the cost-of-living crisis.


Mehmet went to school in Tottenham and Ali and Cemal went to the same Stoke Newington school from the age of six. They now own three cafes. As well as 215 Hackney, they run Drury N4 in Manor House and Drury 188-189 in Covent Garden.



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