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Mitshel Ibrahim photographed at his home in east London by Michaël Protin, November 2023.

The journey of Mitshel Ibrahim’s Ombra – a small Italian trattoria on the corner of Vyner Street in east London – is unique, a restaurant which in 2023 is defined by its extraordinary dynamism and adaptability through the COVID-19 pandemic. Before March 2020, Ibrahim ran a successful neighbourhood Italian restaurant, whose most notable moment had come after an ill-advised tweet about a Parmesan surcharge sent the Internet into a frenzy.

Three years after his restaurant pivoted to pastificio when lockdown measures came into place in London, Ibrahim and his team opened a second premises, on the other side of Hackney’s Cambridge Heath Road, called Forno. Where Ombra is a restaurant, Forno is a bakery, deli, and cafe, a space in which the chef has tried to keep alive many of the things that Ombra became through 2020 and 2021 but was unable to maintain long-term. It also one of very few London restaurants serving tray-baked pizza al taglio, inspired by a certain Gabriele Bonci.

Ibrahim loves Rome moreso than his hometown Milan. But it is London where he now lives, also in Hackney, with the ceramicist Skye Corewijn.

Here’s Ibrahim at home with his favourite things, told in his words.

Ago by Nana Benz du Togo

Ago, by Nana Benz du Togo.

A band we first discovered in July at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide festival in the south of France at a place called Sète. The band was super powerful, energetic, incredible live show so we definitiely had to buy the record and my partner Skye went and managed to get it signed, which is a nice memory to have.

Sort of African instruments with local stories of their everyday life.


Plating up pasta e fagioli.

I really like ladles. I had to pick one; I could’t pick them all. And this one in particular has a very nice, gentle, pleasing-to-look-at curve. The handle and a very wide, not too deep bowl at the bottom to scoop up a good amount of soups or whatever you’re dishing out. It has a very beautiful, ornamental handle; like a bit worn-down… I bought it on a South African market maybe six or seven years ago. I use it as much as I can.


“Ornamental as opposed to functional.”

This stool was made in a one-day course that me and my partner did together two years ago at Stepney City Farm, just down the road from where we live. And I had never worked with wood before and it was very interesting to see how relatively simple, but still hard, it is to make furniture and all the thinking processes you take for granted when you look at furniture. When you make it, you become more engaged and are more critical about it, I guess.

Skye also did one but it’s not as nice… we picked mine, which is an ornamental as opposed to functional stool. We use it for resting cups or laptop when we’re watching a movie on the sofa.


Blue da ba de da ba da.

Again, I had to pick one of the few that I have – this one in particular is made by Andrea Roman, a Mexican ceramist, who as well as being a friend, she shares a studio with partner, and the trivet is permanently next to our dinner table, always ready to be used when something hot is about to go on our dinner table.


My mug.

I made this mug a few years ago at a ceramics course which Skye hosted. It was 10 of us – and we secretly hid our relationship; I was there secretly being a student. Underneath the mug it says, “for Skye,” so I made this mug specifically for Skye.

The handle is more non-functional but I personally find it an eye-pleasing feature of the mug. We use it regularly for coffees and teas. It’s a decent size for various hot beverages, and it hasn’t chipped yet – so it’s proof that it was thrown by a master potter, like I am. [Laughs].

Moka pot

Sharp geometric angles.

We have a number of various sizes of stove top coffee pots but the one we use the most is this black one from Alessi, which is quite fancy.

It’s the perfect size for me and Skye to have a good cup of coffee.


I’m just a boy…

A toy that I was gifted maybe 12 years ago by my partner. I can’t remember exactly why it was gifted but when we first met, I told her that I used to play a lot, like many boys at the time, with tiny cars – and I remember seeing this one at a bar in Shoreditch where [Skye] worked at the time and she convinced the owner of the bar to sell it to her.

We’ve been living in various flats and houseboats since but the two-wheeled truck has never left us.

It’s actually our safe, it’s where we hide our cash because you’d never think that’s where the cash would be.

Photography by Michaël Protin. This interview has been edited for clarity.

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