Sometimes only a sausage will do. And when that feeling overtakes you, there is nowhere better to go than Kipferl in Camden Passage, apparently London’s only Austrian cafe. Previously situated near Barbican tube, this Viennese coffee house expanded into larger premises off Upper Street earlier this year and is now open for dinner as well as lunch.
I met some friends there at 5.30 on Thursday evening. Arriving early, I was impressed by how light and airy the new branch seems compared to the teeny tiny Farringdon one I’d been to before. I was less impressed to discover that they only serve food at the back tables and that two of them were in fact reserved, so ended up with my tea going cold as I played musical chairs around the tables as people left to get one that would seat all four of us and allow us to order dinner. Booking for dinner is essential if you’d like to avoid the same faff.
The staff were very friendly and didn’t bat an eyelid at seat hopping, bringing me tea on a small metal tray with a glass of tap water and a mini Milka on the side. These little details pleased me hugely and made up for the seat confusion. I was ready to check out the menu by the time the others arrived. It has a great choice of small plates and full meals available all day, making it suitable for a late lunch or a light dinner that can be followed by the stunning looking cakes and tortes…
My dining companions chose the schnitzel and the goulash with spätzle from the dinner plates and as I wasn’t just as hungry, I went for the sausage, sauerkraut and pickles from the small plates, mainly because I love pickled things and cabbage but yet I had never had sauerkraut before. As Kipferl is licensed, we chose a refreshing wheat beer to go with our meat and carbs and then settled down for a good old catch up.
The food arrived promptly. J’s schnitzel was enormous, practically hanging off the plate it was so susbstantial. It came with potatoes and a lovely looking salad on the side. Both E and A had chosen the goulash and it was a good sized portion of paprika deep meat and creamy spaetzle that just cried out to tucked into with a spoon and some gusto. My plate surprised us all the most, a huge käsekrainer or cheese stuffed sausage, a mountain of sauerkraut, some dark rye bread and a perky looking pickle, it was a much more substantial plate than I had expected.
It was also fantastic. The käsekrainer was a triumph. All sausages should have little nuggets of melted Emmental in them from now on to be as good as this one. The sauerkraut was deliciously tart and tasty and has converted me to its ways in the future. The pickle was a proper example, although cut in such a way it was almost impossible to eat without getting gherkin juice everywhere. I didn’t really care and simply got stuck in with my rye bread…
The goulash was equally good. Rich with smoky paprika, with a slight peppery kick to it, the meat was soft and unctuous while the spätzle were cheesily moreish as they both mingled together. Both goulash eaters scraped their plates sparkling clean and looked incredibly happy with their choice. The schnitzel went down well too. It was incredibly moist and tender and tasty, but it was a struggle between four of us to not see the last quarter go to waste.
All in all the food was excellent, but we all agreed the pricing was somewhat erratic. My small plate, which turned out to be a full plate, was £5.75 with a £1 supplement for the käsekrainer, while the schnitzel was £16.80. Even for the size of it and the quality, we felt nearly £17 for a main course in a cafe was really rather expensive and we thought it might be better to reduce the portion to a more manageable size and charge slightly less for it. As it was we’d hoped to try a slice or two of cake, especially the Sachertorte and we were unable to even countenance getting some to take home.
I’d like to see Kipferl bed in a little bit more at its new home and smooth out these little awkwardnesses and then I can see it becoming a firm favourite of mine, especially for those evenings when you want a cup of tea and a chat to spill over into dinner and drink without having to move. London just doesn’t have enough places like this and Kipferl could find itself setting the pace with its good food and pleasant surroundings. Plus, where else can you go for an Almdudler?