Starbucks Without the Wankers


As part of the El Fit vs El Fat month the Brothers search for an alternative to our usual nutritious food review or 2 pint lunch. As we have chosen the 5:2 diet and basically starve 2 days a week (600 cal, not enough to feed a reasonable sized cat) and this was one of those days.

What more could you want (Cat friendly maybe?)

We find ourselves in ‘Ziferblat‘, it means time in Russian, I know this as I am a scholar or have Google, but let’s face it education is dead when you have Google (Actually I Googled, it means ‘clock-face’ – El Food One). Time is all you pay for in this joint. 6p a minute and just ‘get amongst it’. We are understandably sceptical.

The El Food Brothers meet up outside and head upstairs not knowing what to expect. We are pleasantly suprised as we are greeted by a really helpful guy who senses our levels of anxiety and that we may not know the right words. He says “Hi guys have you been before?”. I respond that I am not sure how it works and he gives a comprehensive low down, £3.60 an hour or 6p a minute and just be respectful of others and take what you want.

Filmed in 'Panovision'
Filmed in ‘Panovision’

We give our names and step inside, a lovely clean and fresh environment awaits us. There are couches, comfy chairs, people playing games, reading books and working. It’s like Starbucks without the wankers. Being on a fasting day we head to the coffee machine and grab two cups of decent black coffee from the machine (bean-to-cup I think they call it – El Food One). Taking note of a lovely offering of cakes and snacks nearby.

Cake Tease
Cake Tease

There is also a soup station, from 12pm until its gone everyday, which I peeked in and it looked delicious. There is even a microwave so you can bring your own food in. This is an unprecedented freedom compared to all the hipster joints we usually attend. It’s nice to go from hipster to hippy with the communal feel.

Heading to our seats, we notice a lovely table offering a selection of sandwiches, onion bhaji and the like, commenting “if it wasn’t a fasting day I would pile up a plate of that”. We survey the area and it becomes clear that the food belongs to an event who have booked it themselves. One woman nearly loses a hand whilst reaching for a sandwich as the ‘Buffet Baron’ barks in a snappy tone “THAT’S OURS”.

We chuckle at the formation that starts to be created around the table, by the pride of snack lions. To prevent infiltration, they line up on one side (maybe that’s a lion bar) of their treasure trove of snacks. To be fair in a place where everything is free, it’s easy to see how the mistake was made and this is more of a slight on the ‘Sandwich Samurai’ and not Ziferblat.

An un-guarded buffet in the wild
An un-guarded buffet in the wild

We spend a thoroughly enjoyable 40 minutes in there musing over the décor, the clientele and creative content for our El Fit vs El Fat challenge and also taking the piss out of the buffet situation. We did respect the work of one stealthy snacker who escaped with a sandwich back to his chair. Kudos my friend. On a non-fasting day that would have been El Food One at the table and he would not have stealth-ed away. Luckily the 5:2 saves us, as I don’t need to work anymore diplomacy in another situation, to save us from being turned into El Food Guacamole.

El Food One allowed himself one piece of matter with this pretzel
El Food One allowed himself one piece of matter with this pretzel

El Food One checks every door in the place on his way to the loo and doesn’t find anything untoward. He did find a ‘Beware of the Gnomes’ door which maybe we will research further down the line when fully prepared to battle with a gnome army. I’m not entirely sure what is required, so it a pretty low priority.

We love it here and their Twitter is very active and responsive to us as we put out a blast about having enjoyed it and ask a few follow up questions, mainly based about taking our own produce in and how we stand with it. We haven’t asked the beer question yet. I expect a no, but that would be the winner of the £5 lunch with a beer quest that we have been trying to complete for 6 months. We will return and will keep you posted.

8 Sandwiches pinched off 10 buffet plates

El Food One Says

I’m surprised its taken us so long to get to Ziferblat. I think being borderline alcoholics has always kept us away. I’m glad the recent diet enforcement has forced our hand and we finally enter the Zibs’, as we have dubbed it.

It offers everything it says on the tin ‘the only thing you pay for is your time’. Which when you think about is probably quite deep. Its a reverse work situation, and I think 6p a minute for the creature comforts offered by Zibs’ you can do a lot worse with your life.

I 100% stand behind the ethos of Ziferblat, not only do you get everything you want for 6p a minute, you also leave with a smug sense that you are contributing to something more than your local Starbucks tax free profits.

And if you’re going to put a buffet out in the communal area, do be prepared to share, I know the El Food Brothers would.