Ziferblat: A pay-per-minute café

Storm Simpson 30 January 2014

Treat it as your own living room. This is what your host tells you as you get the full tour of Ziferblat. The rules are simple, you pay for the time that you spend there, not the amount of food and drink you consume. Pay-as-you-go dining has been revolutionized in Russia, and Ziferblat is the first café of its type to open in the UK in Shoreditch, London.

The price is 3p per minute, so £1.80 per hour, £3.60 for two… You get the gist. You choose a clock from a cupboard as you enter and make note of the clock’s name and the time. Each clock is different and, like the decor, unique. Most of the interior seems to be filled with un-matching sets of tables and chairs from the different shops around Brick Lane, which only adds to this quirky little café’s charm.

The kitchen may get crowded, and the water tank might take a while to boil, but for us students – who have endured much worse halls for much more money – it is brilliant. In the kitchen there is a selection of bread, biscuits, and porridge alongside all the types of tea that you can think of.

The vinyl player streams out music throughout the day and you can pass many hours enjoying a game of chess, reading some Russian literature, playing the piano or just simply relaxing with your friends chomping up endless free biscuits.

Ziferblat is a cheaper alternative to buying endless cups of coffee as you work, but would it catch on in Cambridge? Kelsey from Trinity Hall says “I don’t think I drink enough tea in an hour for it to make a difference to me, but if you drink lots it would make sense and be a good working environment.” A second-year NatSci had the opposite view: “I’d be too busy taking advantage of the system by stuffing my face with cake to get any work done!” Only time will tell whether this pay-per-minute chain will spread to student hubs across the nation, but if it does then fans of face-stuffing should definitely pop in for a cuppa. Or five.