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Cardiff Character: Ronen Achrak

When Woodville Road’s Falafel Kitchen, one of Cardiff’s coolest and most highly rated takeaway joints, closed its doors back in early 2014, the city and its falafel fanatics were up in arms. So imagine the collective sigh of relief when eight months later the Kitchen reopened its doors, this time at a new home on Crwys Road in restaurant form. Owner Ronen Achrak is happier than anyone to have his brainchild back up on its feet, although it turns out the reasons for the move weren’t quite as mysterious as they first may have seemed, most namely a dispute with a fussy landlord.

The Kitchen, where Ronen is most at home

The Kitchen, where Ronen is most at home

Tricky tenancies aside, 52-year-old Ronen is someone who is always looking to the future, always looking to improve and always reaching for the stars, “At the end of the day we wanted to grow, we wanted to be bigger and the place on Woodville Road just wasn’t as big as this one.”

But Ronen has by no means been plying his trade all of his life in a Cardiff kitchen. He was raised on the Kibbutz Kinneret in the north of Israel, where he spent most of his days working in the fields, “picking bananas and things.”

In 1985, however, he relocated, to Pontypool of all places. The reason behind this move? Well there could only really be one couldn’t there, Ronen informs me all the while displaying a subtle glint in his eye, “I fell in love, with somebody from Wales and the rest is history, I am here because of that.” He eventually moved to Cardiff in 1999, setting up a falafel trailer in Roath Park before the move to Woodville Road. “I love, love, love this city. The community here is much for my liking.” 

Ronen is very proud of his serve-your-own salad bar

Ronen is very proud of his serve-your-own salad bar

Creating a buzz

The way it has been written about (one local blogger described Falafel Kitchen as his top choice for his last meal if he were an inmate on death row) you come to wonder just how Ronen has gone about creating such a buzz around the place. Turns out he has transposed much of his own personality and moral values into the Kitchen. “I’m looking at my customers as humans not as a pound sign. For me, the relationship I have with my customers is more important than taking another 5 pounds from them, if you know what I’m saying.” It is for this reason that Ronen makes a point of allowing customers to try out his falafel for free if they’ve never tried it before. 

The future

So what does the future have in store for this highly driven go-getter? “Open another one. The idea is not to stay small, try to grow, you know. You have to look at things positively, you can’t be negative, that’s my motto in life, ‘look at things positively’.”

Pearls of wisdom from a man who evidently lives for three things: his family, his work and the promotion of his home nation’s favourite dish.

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