One of Kensington Market’s most popular bars just opened a brand new cafe

Kensington Market’s Tapestry, situated on Augusta Street, is a must-visit bar and music venue owned by Armenian-Canadian brothers Shaunt Raffi and Raz Tchakmak. The duo was previously behind The Oud & The Fuzz, as well as Antikka cafe and record store.

Almost every night of the week, passersby can expect to hear live music pouring out from the front doors — an eclectic mix of genres and cultures curated by Shaunt Raffi, the younger of the two siblings. During the day, however, those doors are always closed, revealing a vibrant mural with the word “Tapestry” at its centre. But not this summer.

From May until October, Tapestry will be letting in the sun to share its front space with Cafe Marallo, a cozy Kensington coffee shop run by fellow Armenians Rafi Ghanaghounian and Maral Zakarian. 

Ghanaghounian is also the owner of Samara Contemporary art gallery on Tecumseth, which temporarily closed during the pandemic. At the time, the couple decided to sell their condo in favour of buying property in Costa Rica where they lived during the pandemic to regroup. 

Though Maral had a 23-year career in finances, she had no desire to return to that work when the pandemic ended. So they moved back to the market, where Ghanaghounian reopened the gallery, and together they contemplated their next move.  “We come from a culture of making coffee, teas and pastries for family anyway, so why don’t we share that with the community?” says Ghanaghounian.

“Ultimately Cafe Marallo is a way of sharing our cultural experience,” he adds. “There’s a lot of cafes in the market and the city but it seems like they’re all serving the same lattes and  cappuccinos. We wanted to introduce Armenian coffee, pastries, and music.”

The pastries are made by Maral’s cousin who launched her speciality Armenian and Middle Eastern baking business, D&R Bakery Co, during the pandemic.  The baked goods include rosette baklavas made with pistachios or walnuts, Guyanese pine tarts with pineapples and alfajores (South American cookies with dulce de leche inside), which Zakarian says are dry and pair great with coffee. 

In addition to classic coffee options, as well as Armenian coffee, the cafe sells homemade cold teas (hibiscus lemonade, and green tea with mint agave), and mocktails like “The Marallo” featuring mint and zero-alcohol rum, The “Habibi” featuring ginger beer and zero-alcohol vodka, and “The Cher,” featuring pomegranate and zero-alcohol tequila. 

As for decor, the cafe features a couple of small tables and a bar counter with stools. The couple went out of their way to make it feel like an extension of their living room, with warm tones, lush plants and a series of black and white family photos sealed in the bar countertop. The glassware is actually from their personal collection, which they use for hosting at home.

The cafe’s name “Marallo” is  an endearing term for Maral, chosen by Rafi in honour of his wife. “I feel loved that my husband thought about me and wanted to give back to me, because transitioning from a financial background into regular everyday life was a tough adjustment,” she says. “But I love this idea. We love to host in our homes so now we’re just bringing our home to everybody.”

The pair have lived in Kensington for over 25 years so they’re already familiar faces to the neighbourhood. Maral actually met the Tapestry brothers through family friends when Raz and Shaunt were only children. “The Armenian world is pretty small like that,” laughs Tchakmak.

As a sort of homage to Antikka, Tchakmak will also be selling curated records out of the cafe Thursday to Sunday from  noon until 5 p.m.

“It’s going to be a few crates so there isn’t going to be much filler, I’m doing my best to curate bangers” he says. “We’ll have a $5 bin, but most of the stuff will be records that people want, ranging from rock to jazz to blues to funk,” he says. 

You can visit Cafe Marallo inside Tapestry seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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