After more than half a century running a fish and chip restaurant, Fish Central owner George Hussein was given a national award recognising his contribution to the local community.
Mr Hussein, 83, has run the restaurant in King’s Square, Bunhill, since 1968, and last month the restaurateur was named BBC Morning Live’s Community Food Champion of 2023.
Handing him his award, The One Show presenter Matt Allwright said: “I’m proud to say it’s the one and only George Hussein, a local legend.
“His fish shop and the bakery next door have become a hub for north London locals. He’s made this more than a business; he goes the extra mile for the people who come through his doors.
“When the pandemic began, George stepped up. It’s clear to see what Turkish Cypriot George has done for this area.”
Mr Hussein explained the motivation behind the way he runs his businesses as being all about community.
“Without community, you’re nothing, you haven’t got anything, have you?” he said.
“Community is very important because you learn and live with them and you thrive with them.”
He came to the area in 1968 from Bridport in Dorset aged 28, and opened the fish shop that year. He had travelled from Cyprus when he was just nine years old, to escort his aunt, and never went back.
But what has kept him here all these years? “I grew up with them,” he said of the friends all around him in the square. “If you stay in one place for 55 years you get emotionally involved with some of them, whether you like it or not! You can’t turn off, it’s part of you.”
Laughing off the possibility of retiring, the octogenarian said: “I haven’t reached my potential yet!”
The award was handed to him for his community work: he has sponsored City of London FC for the past three years, and for years has put on a special Christmas dinner for the pensioners in the area. During lockdown – and beyond – he has delivered fish and chips to those in the neighbourhood, free of charge, while he offers apprenticeships to locals to work in his businesses.
Susie Nichols, who celebrated her 65th birthday in Fish Central on Wednesday evening, has known Mr Hussein since she was 10.
Describing his “mop of black hair,” and the cigar hanging out of his mouth, she joked: “He looked like Tony Soprano walking round; all the women were lining up for him.”
Mr Hussein went on to marry and has two sons, who work as a lawyer and a trader but also help out with his businesses.
Ms Nichols said of Mr Hussein’s award: “It’s fantastic. Well-deserved, long overdue. First and foremost George is always ready to help anyone. Some days he gives away more than he sells – the old-age pensioners, he gives them cakes and teas for free.
“When people are in hospital, for years and years and years, he always visited all the locals in hospital and took them something to eat.”
She praised his “sincere and caring” nature and put his success down to his work ethic.
“He’s worked extremely hard for what he’s got, and when all is said and done he loves the square and the people – the community,” she said.
“And if it weren’t for the fish, he wouldn’t be here: that’s his saying.”