For a city where it seems every international cuisine is represented, Austrian restaurants in London are few and far between. Until fairly recently, if I had a craving for käsekrainer, Fischer’s in Marylebone was the knee-jerk choice. Unfortunately, since Corbin & King were ousted from their own business in 2022, I haven’t been able to bring myself to go back there yet (though extremely excited about Jeremy King’s three new openings expected this year).
Hidden away in delightful Camden Passage, Kipferl has already been in business for at least a decade but for some reason I hadn’t got round to going yet; fortunately, my self-imposed moratorium on dining at Fischer’s and being in Angel to investigate new pub The Tamil Crown (formerly The Charles Lamb) provided an ideal opportunity to visit.
Kipferl takes its name from the Austrian crescent-shaped pastry which was the precursor to the croissant (see Rachel Naismith’s article on the croissant’s origins here). So it’s no surprise really that Kipferl is more of a konditorei with a little restaurant attached. Even at 8pm customers in the café part were still tucking in to topfentorte (the gateway drug to full-blown sachertorte) but, with a dinner reservation, you’re ushered through to the tables at the back. It might not be the obvious choice for an evening meal, but what’s the würst that could happen…? (Sorry.)
I’ll be back
Although I found the music a bit loud, its laid-back informality, Alpine ski lodge ambience and walls featuring pictures of Austrian stars (including Arnold Schwarzenegger) were immediately disarming. It was also reassuring to hear a group on the neighbouring table say “we can’t go to Vienna this year so we came here.” That comment, combined with actual native Austrians sitting on another table, should be endorsement enough.
Above all, there’s no pretension at all about Kipferl; the food and service are as honest as a hotel bathroom mirror. The whole range of Austrian comfort food is present and correct, from the four types of sausage to hearty stews, from schnitzels to apfelkuchen. It’s authentic too (the schnitzels are not served in the “Holstein” style as that was a dish invented in Berlin).
Speaking of the schnitzels, whether you choose the chicken, traditional veal or vegan pea-based option, the sheer size of this is great value, and the no-nonsense simplicity of whacking it on a bed of potatoes is admirable, though my classic veal one was slightly dry. Ditto the gröstl of beef, onion, potatoes and egg – essentially a Tyrol fry-up which was very fulfilling but crying out for a sauce to cut through the salt and greasiness. There are ‘wetter’ dishes available though, such as beef cheeks slowly cooked in a Zweigelt gravy or the veal in mushroom and white wine sauce.
If the schnitzel is a bit on the dry side this is where the drinks come to the rescue. Alongside classic Austrian cocktails such as the Hugo, schnapps, Sekt (great as an aperitif) or beers like Stiegl, owner Hubert Zanier’s true passion is his imported Austrian wines. A cheeky bottle of Kirnbauer Blaufränkish “730l”, which is rarely available in the UK, complemented the meal beautifully with its lush cherry notes and soft tannins.
All of this comes at a deliciously fair price point. On this occasion I only had a Viennese ice coffee to round things off but have my eyes on the Kipferl-style Kaiserschmarrn for next time. Even still, it seems you can easily have three courses and a little wine for around £50 per head.
There isn’t exactly a crowded field of competitors when it comes to real Austrian restaurants in London but Kipferl still stands out above them all. To cheesily coin the words of Schwarzenegger as The Terminator (but not the Governor of California), I’ll be back.
20 Camden Passage
by J A Smith