Ziferblat: Cafe Review
Memorising vocabulary and practicing grammar is so much easier with a good working environment. Moscow has no shortage of cafes, but here’s a hidden gem that you may not have found otherwise…
The entrance is, admittedly, unpromising. Ziferblat is located round the back of a продукы store, in a car park. There’s no sign – just a staircase surrounded by air ventilation vents.
Yes, you may be tempted to turn back and head to the nearest Starbucks, but bear with me, once you make your way upstairs, the whole ‘hidden treasure’ concept of Zifferblat makes sense. You walk through to beautifully bright yet cosy room, the decor of which can only be described as babushka-chic – all mismatched fabrics and upcycled furniture, antique photo frames, tumbling book cases and sprawling plants in painted concrete vases.
Ziferblat describes itself as an ‘anti-cafe’ (no, I had no clue at first either). In essence, it means you’re not there to be rushed. Ever felt that you’ve outstayed your welcome at a cafe when you spend three and a half hours on your laptop with a single espresso at your side? None of that here – at Ziferbalt you pay per minute. As they say themselves, ‘everything is free, except the time you spend there’.
Pay-per-minute sounds like it might rack up a serious bill before long, but it’s only 3 roubles! And after four hours, it caps out meaning the maximum you can spend is 540 roubles even you spend all day hanging out there.
Ziferblat means clock face in Russian and German (Zifferblatt). The idea is guests take an alarm clock from the cupboard on arrival and note the time with the host, then keep it with them, before, quite literally, clocking out at the end. Once in, you make yourself at home. There are complimentary snacks, including unlimited biscuits (I tend to interpret that as a challenge) or you can prepare your own food in the kitchen, . You can help yourself to a selection of teas or have coffee made for you from a professional machine. There’s boardgames, a library and even a piano.
Ivan Mitin, the owner of the chain describes the concept as follows:
“The main concept of Ziferblat is not only to use an unusual pay system, but to create a space cushy as home where it’s comfortable for you to work and to entertain as well, a place where it’ll be easy to meet new people. One of the main Ziferblat’s features is a tendency to allow the guest to be autonomous, if you want you can become a part of the process: cook food and make drinks at the common kitchen, organize events. People aren’t paying for consumption; we pay for the space and they pay for the time, so it’s about participation.”
Ziferblat has opened 10 branches in Russia in the past two years. There are currently two in Moscow – one on 12c1 Tverskaya St. one 12c1 Pokrovka St. and one in St. Petersburg which you can read about here. They’re open 24 hours, and apparently it’s common for students pre-exams to pull all-nighters here. Now even if you’re not quite that committed to your Russian homework, still it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon – you can sneak away at a single desk, snuggle up on a armchair by a bookcase, go into laptop lock-down mode, or get a table with a group of friends – whatever you’re up to it’s the perfect spot. You can thank us later.
This blog was brought to you by Kamila, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz.