There’s a place in the Albert Dock where you can wash dishes, not get paid, and it be totally legal. Ziferblat (clock face) is an international pay by the minute anti-café chain at which customers pay for the time spent there, rather than the food. The emphasis is on taking your time.
Customers are welcomed and give their name at their door before serving themselves and washing their own dishes and paying on the way out. So technically, if you could wolf down a loaf of bread in 60 seconds, you’d still only spend 8p. It’s unique in that everything you receive is free, from the cake to wi-fi. Even the toilet is free no matter how much of a stench you make.
There’s a huge choice of drinks, biscuits, cakes, cereals and you can even make toast (our Spanish pal’s Marmite face was gold). There are 43 kinds of tea and a microwave so you can bring your own scran.
Keep an eye on the time though, because you could spend hours playing board games, records or the piano. There’s a children’s play area so they can be seen but heard a little less, and even dogs are welcome (as long as they don’t poo). Luckily after four hours your time is capped so the rest of the day is free – good thing only London has a designated nap zone.
This place is unique but not try-hard. It feels genuinely inviting and cosy, giving off a vibe something like a hostel crossed with the Brink. You would never think you were even in the docks, and it’s drawing in locals because they don’t need to take out a mortgage to eat.
Back in 2011, Ivan Mitin established Ziferblat in Moscow, its prototype a common space called the Tree House. Ziferblat began as a community of poets aspiring to progress their work.
The main concept of Ziferblat is not only to use an unusual pay system, but to create a space cushy as home where it’s comfortable for you to work and to entertain as well, a place where it’ll be easy to meet new people. One of the main Ziferblat’s features is a tendency to allow the guest to be autonomous, if you want you can become a part of the process: cook food and make drinks at the common kitchen, organize events. People aren’t paying for consumption; we pay for the space and they pay for the time, so it’s about participation. – Ivan Mitin.
Most of the photos below are swiped off the website, although it was significantly busier on Saturday afternoon.
The voluntary opportunities are interesting, too. For every hour you help, you will receive two hours free back – boss for those struggling to feed themselves or even just wanting to get out and people watch or meet others.