Everything Old is New Again

November 11, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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The iconic “21” restaurant in Sydney’s Double Bay is back in the hands of the Schiffer family.

George, Michael and Jancsi Schiffer - 1987

Opened by  newcomer Jancsi Schiffer in 1958 because he could find nowhere in Sydney to match the sophisticated cafes of his native Budapest, the “21” quickly became a destination for not only those living in the surrounding suburbs but also for interstate and international visitors to Sydney keen to experience the European cuisine and to enjoy Sydney’s first restaurant  to offer outdoor seating.

This week, coffee drinkers, snackers and diners heading into the “21” will find themselves greeted by Jancsi’s son George or Jancsi’s grandson Michael. Famous for his front man chat and cheeky personality, Jancsi who died in 1991 at the age of 69, will be a hard act to follow. But both George and Michael spent many hours working in the restaurant under his guidance and no doubt diners will find that the cherry strudel doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Michael Schiffer, 36, told J-Wire: “We will not be dropping any of the old favourites or changing the traditional ’21’ menu…but we will be adding to it.” Dad George agreed. Many of the European customers Dad catered for are still clients but there are many diners who seek light meals and we will be adding to the menu to cater for them.”

George and Michael Schiffer outside "21" pics: Henry Benjamin

George added: “We always had a reputation as a strong family restaurant…and our plans are for that to continue…an upmarket McDonalds.”

Jancsi Schiffer was to become one of the best known characters in Sydney during the time he owned 21. George reminisced: “I remember he went upstairs one day and discovered that a staff member had hidden a chicken in her bag. Rather than make a fuss, Dad just simply pulled the chicken from the bag and placed it back in the freezer.”

George Schiffer told J-Wire that he in the restaurant on almost a daily basis from the of 12. He said: “I grew up in this place.” The Schiffer boys are listening to their old customers and are thinking of re-introducing the 21’s famous gypsy plate and daily specials.

Sophia Glass gets her Chuppa Chup from George Schiffer

Michael Schiffer said his fond memories of the restaurant  since it passed out of Schiffer family hands almost twenty years ago. He said: “For me the feel of the restaurant hasn’t changed very much. It’s very comfortable. I worked behind the bar for nine months when my grandfather owned it and the place has retained the consistency it had then. Our plan is to introduce current trends without moving away from our traditional food base.”

The Schiffer name is synonymous with veal and chicken schnitzels…and matza ball soup…and roast duck and veal knuckle…paprika chicken and beef ghoulash and the creamed spinach and cucumber salad.

The good news for the diners…there will be no retrenchments

Generations of Eastern Suburbs children grew up visiting the “21” with their parents and receiving from Yancsi himself as they left the restaurant a Chupa Chups lollipop. George is determined his grandfather’s traditional will continue.

George is there. Michael is there…The Chuppa Chops are waiting.

George and Michael Schiffer talk about the past, the present and the future….


5 Responses to “Everything Old is New Again”
  1. kidn kaboodle says:

    soda vota darlink works well…..i was there 2 nights ago and i heard that line about a million times

    soda vota mutzikam…….haha love that

  2. The Original Altakaka says:

    Soda Vota Darlink

  3. Kidn Kaboodle says:

    I’ll be down there every night for the comedy routine. And also the duck and the veal knuckle.

  4. Kidn Kaboodle says:

    I don’t know who’s kidn more, George (eyebrows and answering phone during interview), Michael (cleaning trying to look busy and looking out the window while his car is double parked) or the interviewer (who is absolutely kind with the call on the duck and the veal).

  5. jack says:

    Nice of J wire to promote chazir tref restaurants

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