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Bowery To Williamsburg

Address: 16 Oliver Lane, Melbourne, 3000

Phone: 03 9077 0162

Twitter: @ bowerytowilliam

Breakfast hours: mon-fri 7am-11.30am

Seating: indoors & outside

Pets welcome: yes

Kid friendly: no

Payment: cash only

Soy: yes

Gluten free: yes

Vegetarian: no

Vegan option/s: no

words by Ellie Parker
photos by Albert Comper

If you were told you had a “cat’s bum” for a mouth you wouldn’t be happy. But then again, people with cat’s bums don’t seem to be full of the joys in the first place. Who knows whether they’re sad because of their mouths or whether their mouths are a showcase of their misery. Maybe they’ve simply sucked back on too many fags? Either way, it’s not a kind description, but it’s certainly an apt one. And whenever I walk behind a cat or clap eyes on a sour-faced human, I always think of the other. It oddly makes the ugly better.

The morning I sat down to some rather excellent shakshuka eggs at Bowery, I was midway through admiring the bubbling delight of eggs, haloumi, breaded eggplant, fragrant sugo, peppers, and zaatar pita crisps when two Cats Bums walked in and sat down opposite me. They wore matching grey slacks (they were of a certain slack age), coarse wool cardigans, and looked like they had been sucking on the same lemon for most of their lives. They hated themselves and life. They avoided eye contact with each other, the waiters and the world. They were so very misplaced, not least of all because they were sitting in one of Melbourne’s most joyous, vivacious, food-loving temples.

Based on New York’s deli food, Bowery to Williamsburg is all about the gutsy, the sweet, the salty, the here-for-a-good-time-not-a-long-time. It’s a crowded, fun flavour mosh pit. Think smoked meat hash, whipped peanut butter bagels, fried challah, candied popcorn and steel cut oat porridge with excessive maple syrup moats. Beyond Midday think Reuben, Schmaltz chicken, pickled herring, meatballs and mac n’ cheese. Bowery bursts out of its laneway bolthole with bodacious cuisine and an understated fit-out. The hip n’ happening attitude is palpable, heralding the rise and rise of Americana on our plates. It’s also the second act to Hardware Societe’s first, so you have the faith.

But to witness Bowery’s finest talent is to witness two Cats Bums as they slowly begin to unfurl, with their wrinkled, scrunched-up, pushed-in attitudes yielding to the adventure. After being presented with cute cardboard menus, one of them sighed, barking back at the waitress, “No, no. I just want eggs and a coffee thanks. None of THIS (gesticulating towards the craziness presented before her).” The waitress was remarkably obliging, delivering them two cups of joe pronto, followed soon after with some eggs on toast. Time passed until one of them took time out from her moribund plain egg gloom, lent back in her seat and looked up, taking it all in for the first time. Her eyes adjusted to the scene. They then landed on my shakshuka, and she timidly asked me what I was eating. I described the dish, and how the breaded eggplant was particularly noteworthy and quite delicious with the haloumi. She turned to her partner, who was at this point frozen with shock at this unprecedented display of human interaction, and declared that she was going to have a second “shakshuka” breakfast and perhaps even another coffee. She smiled as the waitress came back to take their next round and the two of them joked about how she wasn’t going to be able to fit in her supper that night, but what the hey?

When I left her companion had ordered herself the lox bagel with beetroot, horseradish, dill cream cheese schmear. The horse had bolted. They were pointing at things on their plates. They were having a grand old time. There wasn’t a cats bum in sight. Pretty much sums it up.

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