With their ‘Kafi’, Geraldine Gschwend and Sabinska Binswanger have created a place where everyone feels at home, and they spoil their guests by offering them all the things that they themselves love to eat. Unfortunately, there was one regular who had to say goodbye way too soon – Mohamed the garden gnome.
As you approach Kafi Dihei, you’re greeted by the sparrows that perch in the climbing plant that smothers the front of the building. Step inside and you find more birds. Clay birds look down from the shelves as you tuck into a lavish breakfast, or they sit on the tables in the form of salt and pepper pots. They go perfectly with the Kafi Dihei ambience, with its Biedermeier furniture and delicate china teacups that make you feel you should extend your little finger like the aristocrats of old. But no-one feels out of place in this little Kafi. Quite the opposite, says co-owner Sabinska Binswanger: ‘We wanted our café to be an inviting place where everyone feels at home.’ She and Geraldine Gschwend have certainly succeeded. In one corner, a smartly dressed businesswoman has her nose firmly in a book. In another, two schoolgirls are giggling over their tea, and in the middle a construction worker is enjoying his Kafi Crème and croissant.
‘Fuck this, let’s open a café!’
Geraldine and Sabinska first met when they were both working in a bar. At four o’clock one morning, after a long, hard night, Geraldine said to Sabinska: ‘Fuck this, let’s open a café!’ The idea came out of the blue – but Sabinska loved it. With a little luck and a tip from a co-worker, the two women found the perfect spot. The first time that Geraldine rode her bike down the street, the sun was just coming up between the buildings. It shone on the café and the seating. Geraldine thought: ‘If it’s this place, we have to have it.’
Sabinska also liked it straight away. Her background was in 5-star dining. ‘I learned a lot back then, it was an exciting time.’ But she has no desire to go back to the restaurant trade because she found the pressure to create perfection was just too extreme: ‘In Kafi Dihei I don’t have to pretend, I can be myself.’ And the café only serves the food that she and Geraldine love to eat themselves – all homemade, of course.
Pink wallpaper, embroidered cushions, oil paintings in wooden frames, floral tableware – people often tell Geraldine and Sabinska that Kafi Dihei looks like their grandma’s front room. They gathered the crockery and furnishings from second-hand stores, and some pieces were gifts from their customers. ‘They think the concept is great, and they’ve brought us so much crockery that our cellar is nearly full,’ says Geraldine. But that’s practical too, because teacups inevitably get broken.
Sabinska found Mohamed in a furniture store in Morocco. ‘The poor thing was lying in the bargain bin, so I picked him up and gave him a home.’
Unfortunately, the Kafi Dihei mascot is also broken – Mohamed the garden gnome. One minute he was bravely standing guard at the entrance, the next he was lying on the ground, clumsily knocked over by one of the staff. But he is memorialised in a framed photo. Sabinska found Mohamed in a furniture store in Morocco. ‘The poor thing was lying in the bargain bin, so I picked him up and gave him a home.’
The Kafi is also a second home for many of its regulars, who always come in on certain days. Geraldine comments: ‘It’s lovely when, for example, I think: Oh, it’s Erich and Sven, it must be Saturday again. It’s almost like family.’
At weekends it can get pretty noisy in the small room, but even then, the guests rave about how cosy it is at Kafi Dihei. On weekend mornings, the Kafi is also the go-to destination for clubbers when they stagger out of nightspots like Friedas Büxe. The zMorge Dihei Kater-Teller awaits – a ‘hangover special’ consisting of egg, bacon, potato wedges, onion marmalade and homemade bread. ‘After a hard night of clubbing, it soon gets you back on your feet.’ The Kafi really is there for everyone.