Hubert Zanier, founder of Kipferl, Camden Passage’s incomparable purveyor of authentic Austrian cakes and wine, tells us how he’s made it work in a pandemic.

But for an accident many years ago, Kipferl in Islington – legend among ex-pat Austrians and lovers of Austrian cake alike – may never have existed in its current new incarnation. Growing up in Tirol, the son of two shopkeepers, Hubert Zanier began to learn about his native food from a nanny, whose Wiener Schnitzel, Gulasch and Sachertorte were legendary in the local area. But when she fell her off her bike and broke her arm, there was a whole summer in which she could no longer cook her delicacies. And that was when 12-year-old Hubert stepped up to the plate and took over the kitchen, cooking and learning from her as he went; he hasn’t looked back since.

And yet, while he enjoyed cooking for pleasure, his busy career in finance – one which brought him to London in 2005 – precluded anything more serious than tinkering in the kitchen for friends and family. But when, in 2019, a chance came along to buy the much-loved Kipferl from its then-owners, Hubert was transported to that heady summer as a 12-year-old, and found that he could not resist. Covid may have proved a significant setback, as for so many other businesses, and at the time of writing, it remains closed as the hospitality trade must. And yet under his directorship, it has fought, all-guns-blazing, to become one of the leading purveyors of and experts in Austrian wine, which Hubert sources meticulously. Already, fans of this latest string to Kipferl’s bow abound.



Here he tells us how he’s made his (for now) online only offering work through these difficult days.

We came up with the idea...


Of taking all the handmade, authentic Austrian cakes that have already been so popular in our little café and restaurant in London and make them available to anyone in the UK through our website. And given the international popularity of Austrian wine in the last few years, we also added our hand-picked selection of Austrian wines to the online shop.

The biggest challenge...


Currently is surviving what is a terrible combination of the impact that Covid has had on our business – and still has – and the difficulties that Brexit brings to a small business like ours importing a lot of goods from the EU. Also hiring people is easy now as there are so many people looking for a job, but once the world has hopefully gone back to some form of normality, hiring people will be a nightmare without the regular influx of people from the EU.

The average day is spent…


Currently spent at my (closed) restaurant working from here as I hate working from home. There are so many things to sort out that my presence here makes things much easier. I throw in a workout every other day on my spinning bike at home and finally cook something nice – the only real treat one can get these days.



The team consists of...


A restaurant manager; the service team, part of which currently helps with fulfilling online orders; our pastry chefs who are working extra hours at the moment to bake all the cakes we are sending out; and a few chefs, kitchen porters and service staff who are currently furloughed.

My favourite quote…


Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? I love it when people help me to make the business become better every day, but I need them to create solutions together with me, not just raise issues.



I am where I am today because of...


A lot of hard work and insistence, and a good portion of fate.

I am who I am because of...


My parents and my genes, and all the people that supported and influenced me along the way.

The best bit of digital advice I've been given is...


Pictures are the most important part of selling online. People don't know how good your product is when they haven't tried it yet. A good picture is the first step to get them there.

In five years I’d like to be…


Known all over the UK for making and sending out the best cakes in the country.



The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business...


How hard it REALLY is on a daily basis, how much time, effort and sacrifice you have to invest and how many problems and difficulties are thrown at you.

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us…


Thinking you can take over and run a business from the outside with a few weekly meetings doesn’t work. You need to be on the front and in touch with everything to make things work.

The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date…


To still be afloat despite all the trouble and mess that happened in the last twelve months. And every message we get from customers about how amazing our cakes and wines are.

By Nancy Alsop
March 2021

READ MORE
HappySelf Journal
Winerist
King of Soho Gin

Nancy Alsop

Editor

Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.

FIND OUT MORE