A Hampstead cafe owner is celebrating 15 years in London, having left war-torn West Africa.

Ghassan Akar runs Tania’s of Hampstead, an independent family-run cafe tucked away in Oriel Court, off Heath Street, which has become part of the fabric of the village.

After starting out with a small coffee van in 2009, Ghassan opened the cafe in 2014 and has been serving the community ever since.

Ghassan said: “Since opening, we’ve really developed and have formed personal bonds with our customers. There’s a real community feel in Hampstead, and it’s important to know your customers personally.”

He has lived in London since 2005, but Ghassan spent much of his life in Sierra Leone as part of the large Lebanese community there before the civil war.

Leaving West Africa was a difficult time for Ghassan and his family: “They took everything from us, it’s too painful to remember those times […] I’ve been up so many times, and down even more times. Life can be hard, but I always get up.”

Ghassan is extremely fond of the UK: “It’s a wonderful place - I feel as though I was born British. London is my home now and I’m happy here.”

Ham & High: Tania's of HampsteadTania's of Hampstead (Image: Sylvie Wilkinson)

As well as coffee and fresh dishes, Tania's sells food from around the globe.

It has its own original recipes to sell in store, including pistachio pesto, mulled wine tea and an open cheese toastie.

With a busy few weeks ahead, Tania’s of Hampstead has been putting together personalised Christmas hampers. This way, customers can pick and choose their own products with a personalised touch.

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Despite independent retail being hit hard by the pandemic, Ghassan said he is committed to his customers.

“We’ve done our best for the people in this area - we’ve been serving them every day and providing products they love," he said. "I feel for the people who are suffering and hope the new year is better.”

Ghassan has created Tania’s Miracle Juice, made with sixteen fruits and vegetables and a dash of turmeric in a bid to help his customer's health.

Tania’s of Hampstead will be open every day up until Christmas Day.

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