Ziferblat: More Hilda than hipster

5p a minute to sit in a living room


The Northern Quarter: famed for tattoo parlours, street art and sickeningly quaint tearooms with too much choice of tea. So of course it’s home to a weird new social experiment that no one really gets – its latest a cafe where you only pay for your time rather than your cake.

You check in and check out, paying 5p a minute. And at £5.50 a slice of carrot cake these days, it all sounds pretty decent.

Eerie shapes

I went to the Ziferbalt expecting to be greeted by a mish-mash of hipsters, tea enthusiasts and people into burlesque but I was pleasantly surprised to find it full of elderly couples.

Instead, the queue was long and packed with people who looked like they enjoyed gin in teacups, Cath Kitson and elderflower cordial.

Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver on any of the above. But what it did offer was countless cakes. Essentially it’s like going to your granny’s house – except you’re paying 5p a minute to sit in and living room and help yourself to biccies. There’s cereal, toast, cakes, fruit – I indulged in three rounds of toast and two bowls of cereal. There’s even board games and wifi too.

The staff are super friendly – but don’t mistake them for waiters. This is a DIY cafe with a homely feel – in some ways the comfy seats, cute lamps and twee floral teapots make up for having to get up and do things for yourself.

But most oddly of all, for a cafe so smug about being so uniquely ahead of curve, it’s actually a chain. With fourteen branches of Ziferblat, mainly in Russia, and one in London, it’s basically a Pret a Manger.

I don’t have this at home

The concept was developed by cafe culture enthusiast Ivan Meetin, a Russian, who wanted to establish somewhere that wasn’t home or work but somewhere in between.The Northern Quarter branch bosses told The Tab that they hope to make enough money to reinvest and open several more branches in the next five years. As we discovered, the concept is “timeless” and Ben, the owner, told us that business has “hit the roof”.

So what’s the deal? It’s good for pigging out on a pretty average selection of food on the cheap – it’s good spot for students with a big appetite and shortage of cash. The vibes are are twee and pretty relaxing, so don’t be put off if you’re not a hipster.