North London Food & Culture

Life Tips #21: Nuno Lobo, The Wine Cellar, Kentish Town Road

1. The oldest alliance in the world is between the English and the Portuguese. It’s been there for 700 years. We have different qualities – English people are more cold and the Portuguese warmer – but it doesn’t make any difference to our friendship.

2. Treat your customers as family. It’s very important to look after them: know their names and talk to each one. If I make a dish for myself which is delicious and healthy, it’s good for the customers. Same with the vinho: when I started there wasn’t much here; now I have over two hundred different bottles because that’s what people want.

3. Don’t leave home unless you have to. I didn’t have a job in Portugal, but it was very difficult when I first arrived in London. I spoke little English and worked long hours first in a restaurant, then as a butler in Hampstead, which was lonely. It was tough, and at times I regretted leaving what I knew, but with time and different jobs, life got better.


4. When we grow older, we always reflect on how good the past was.
I first came to this country and moved to Brecknock Road, where I lived for ten years. It was lovely then, more quiet. I still feel nostalgic when I go past and think, ‘For ten years this was part of my life’, even though things weren’t, of course, easy then.

5. But you can’t go back. I go to Portugal every year on holiday, yet if I moved back home I would be an immigrant, after 35 years here. I feel British now.

6. I’m a pacifist. It’s the best way to live. I was in the army in Portugal – all young people were obligated to go. Portugal was fighting a war in Africa, young people were sent there to die, and in the end they gave up anyway. If my opinions diverge from yours, why should we fight? So much better just to sit down at a table and talk to each other.

7. If one week isn’t good, the next one might be. It’s a very difficult time for young people now, but so many of them have good ideas and things to contribute. It isn’t easy to start a business, but I’ve learnt to be persistent. Fight for what you think is right for you, and one day you’ll find something good.

Words: Anna Bear
Photography: Tom Storr. Visit Tom’s website here

The Wine Cellar is at 193 Kentish Town Road.

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