WESTMINSTER PEOPLE: Joseph Friedmann, 50 years at the Tiroler Hut
Bayswater restaurant-owner talks lederhosen, yodelling and Austrian cuisine
12 May, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya
Joseph Friedmann at the The Tiroler Hut
OWN a narrow staircase in the middle of the Westbourne Grove, the sound of lively Austrian music comes pouring out.
For 50 years The Tiroler Hut has been entertaining those looking for a jolly evening that’s a bit out of the ordinary.
And every night, Joseph Friedmann, 79, has been putting on live music shows, singing songs and playing a multitude of instruments.
He says: “I wanted to open a place with live music, a lively restaurant with laughter. I was always interested in Austrian folk music, fresh Tyrolean mountain sounds.”
Joseph worked as a waiter in various restaurants and hotels, including Claridges and the Carlton Tower, learning music on the side. “I used to have the same teacher as Tubby Hayes,” he says. “In the back of my mind, I always wanted to start something myself.”
Decked out with red-and-white chequered tablecloths and wooden panelling, reminiscent of a little chalet in the mountains, it hasn’t changed much since it first opened in 1967.
Back then the crowd was mainly German and Austrian, Joseph says, but over the years it has become popular with more British people.
Most nights the staff dress in traditional attire and the music is upbeat and perfect for a singalong. There’s even yodelling sometimes.
“The men are in lederhosen and the women are in traditional Austrian costumes. Everyone is here for a good time.”
Other nights, the crowd is looking for a more serious song-list, and Joseph is happy to deliver.
“It’s all about getting them involved and making sure they are having a good evening,” he says.
In his repertoire, there is the saxophone, the accordion, the clarinet and, the most recent and perhaps best-known addition, cow bells.
He even appeared on Britain’s Got Talent playing the cow bells, gaining a full house of yeses from the judges for his rendition of Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music. In fact Joseph’s list of TV appearances is extensive.
The restaurant has attracted its fair share of famous faces and the walls are filled with photographs of Joseph having a jolly time with all those who have visited over the years – including Kate Moss, Hugh Grant and Claudia Schiffer to name a few.
“Kate Moss was wonderful,” Joseph says. “I got her to play the bells with me. Her favourite song was La Mer. She has a great sense of humour.”
For the past 50 years, Joseph has been doing a job he loves. But his early life wasn’t all fun and games. Born in Hungary, he recalls the Russian occupation and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. “I made the decision to escape to Austria.”
His journey was an arduous one, as he was stopped by guards, on a train, who took away his papers and told him to go back home. Instead he jumped off the train and walked for miles to the border.
At one point he hid in some hay bales in a stable. Men came looking for anyone on the run then started to stab the hay. Eventually he made it to border and was welcomed in by Austrian guards.
“They gave us the loveliest thing I have had in my life – Austrian rum known as Stroh. It was fantastic,” he says. It is a drink that he serves to this day at The Tiroler Hut, along with an abundance of tasty food.
“Austrian cuisine gets a bad rep in England, we are based on real, solid food. Dumplings, pasta… cheese fondue is very very popular, as is chocolate fondue.”
The place, which he runs with the help of his wife Christine and daughter Michaela, has a family feel. He has even had the same head chef since 1967.
Half a century down the line the restaurant is still going strong. “It’s popular because people are having fun, quite simply. I love what I do,” he says.