Kipferl can do nearly no wrong in my book. I’m forever grateful for its existence, for it’s the only London cafe I know of that serves Sachertorte, my favourite cake in the whole wide world. If you’re aware of any others, you need to share your knowledge with me – now. I’d be surprised if you’d never heard of Sachertorte, but if that’s the case, I’ll let the creators of the original recipe fill you in:
“[Sachertorte is] the most famous cake in the world since 1832, and the original recipe remains a well-kept secret. […] The basis of the entire confection is a chocolate cake, thinly coated by hand with best-quality apricot jam. The chocolate icing on top of it is the crowning glory. It tastes best with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream.”
(from the official website of Hotel Sacher, in Vienna)
I visited Kipferl’s cafe in Angel a few years ago, on a January evening plagued by heavy snow. It was, possibly, the worst day for being out and about; definitely the best day to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and a slice of Sachertorte. Kipferl held a special place in my heart ever since; when I heard that a new branch recently opened in Notting Hill, I could hardly believe my luck. We’d just started planning our move out of the area, and I couldn’t think of leaving without eating there at least once. That our visit fell on 14 February was no more than a coincidence: “Will you eat Sachertorte with me?” is, really, the most romantic proposal I dream to receive (more than once in a lifetime, too).
Open since January 2015, Kipferl Kensington brings a touch of tranquil Viennese elegance to the vibrant, vivacious Golborne Road. The abundance of Austrian memorabilia – from Hotel Sacher’s characteristic wooden cake boxes, to the Neapolitaner wafers any kid raised in or close to Austria has gorged on at least once in a lifetime – add a note of character to its simple decor. So far, the food offering is limited to a sample soft launch menu, including Austrian sausages, cakes and breads. The mains I spotted seem come in decent portions; it’ll be interesting to find out if they taste as authentic as they look. The range of homemade sweet treats includes all the best-known staples: Linzer Torte, Apfelstrudel, Guglhupf, and many more. There wasn’t a single cake I wouldn’t have tried.
But who am I kidding? You and I both know I’d never go to Kipferl and not order Sachertorte. Just look at it. How can you not want to stuff your face with all that chocolatey goodness? In all fairness, I have met people who snub it, claiming it’s too rich and stuffing (nonsense!). You won’t like Kipferl less if you’re one of them: there’s plenty more lovely stuff you can order instead. You can enjoy a slice of cake with a cold juice or hot drink; hot chocolate is the perfect complement to Kipferl’s desserts, as long as you’re happy with the runny, milky British kind. I prefer thick European hot chocolate, so I went for an espresso instead. It was decent, albeit very mild; a safe choice I wouldn’t mind making again.
Matching the original Sachertorte recipe to a tee is a nearly impossible feat, but Kipferl ticks the most important box of all – that is to say, texture. Dry Sacher tastes as dreary and unsatisfying as a bowl of unsalted pasta; Kipferl’s sponge is dense and soft as it should be. All it lacks to be truly excellent is a more generous coating of apricot jam (think plenty of jam trickling from all sides, rather than just one thin layer in the middle). If you want whipped cream with your cake, ask for it upfront: it doesn’t come as standard, and staff members won’t offer it when you order. That’s one of two service shortcomings I hope the soft launch will iron out; the other is speed. We struggled to get help finding a table, and it took more than a few awkward glances in the direction of staff members before anyone acknowledged we were ready to order; a baffling fact, considering that the cafe is quite small, and we were sitting right opposite the counter. The service we received was friendly and polite, but it took time to shake the feeling we’d been left alone when we most needed it.
These are minor niggles, comparing to how lovely it is to eat and drink at Kipferl. You get to spend a couple of hours in a quiet, relaxing setting (even quieter, I’m sure, when Portobello Market is not in full swing). You get to treat yourself to foods you’ll hardly find elsewhere in London; at least, not at such small prices. £4 for a coffee and a slice of cake is a bargain you’ll hardly find anywhere in the area (Lisboa Patisserie aside), and the savoury courses promise to fill your stomach without costing a fortune. If these are not good reasons to visit, then I don’t know what one looks like. I’m sad to leave Notting Hill in however many weeks or months it’ll take to find a new flat, but wherever we’ll end up next, I hope it’s near a branch of Kipferl.
95 Golborne Road
London, W10 5NL
(nearest tube stations: Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park)
Open 10.00 – 18.00 Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays; 10.00 – 22.00 Thursday to Saturday; closed Mondays
0208 969 5852