Ziggy’s House of Nomms

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A great addition to Wollongong’s eateries! More anon.

If you’ve followed my blogs for any length of time you will know how significant a part yum cha played in my life and the lives of my friends through the 1990s and the early 2000s. For example:

Sunday, September 3 2000: 12 days to the Olympics

They say Moore Park will be finished before the Olympics, but they are finding it difficult as there are not enough graders available to do the job. Meantime Belmore Park, near Central Station, is now carpeted–not with bright flowers, or fresh green grass, but with daggy green carpet! Very tasteful. There was a bomb scare at Kirrawee Railway Station south of the city last week; apparently emergency personnel were misdirected to Canterbury Station (some distance away and on quite another line) due to a “pronunciation problem”! However, Central Station refurbishment has been completed–well almost.

Extra police on the streets and quite a few foreign visitors are already apparent in the city. The athletes, of course, have started moving into the Olympic Village.

Today was Yum Cha again–for the uninitiated this is Cantonese for “drink tea” and is essentially an endless supply of delicacies (steamed buns, dumplings, chicken feet, etc) washed down by tea. One can if one chooses have a 24 course breakfast–or more. There were ten people today–PK, Ian Smith, J***s, Sirdan, ABC Andrew, Clive, a guy from Houston Texas, a lesbian Olympic volunteer official from NZ (a friend of Sirdan), Bruce from the Albury, and me. Rabbit sent his hugs to all but was otherwise engaged today. Sad news is that John Wilkinson, who was there last time, an old friend of M, is critically ill in hospital: M has just gone to visit him.

Good news (9.30 pm): John Wilkinson is much better than he was yesterday.

Sunday, September 17

Another glorious Olympic day in Sydney. The shirtless cuties are about again. 🙂

Having announced today’s Yum Cha (Chinese brunch) would be held at the Golden Harbour at 10 am, I turned up expecting crowds, and indeed quite a lot of foreigners were about. Presumably the restaurant owners read these pages (who doesn’t?) so we were delayed twenty minutes while the staff cleaned up, went out for extra provisions, and put tables in the street to cope with the overflow. At last we were ushered to our select table, and the Dowager Empress enthroned herself beside Clive, with PK on Clive’s right, Sirdan and J^***s on my left. People were too shy to identify themselves, but as the restaurant filled with people I could but be impressed by the drawing power of these humble pages. As was fitting all these people pretended they did not know us, respectful of our privacy.

And many another entry. Just one example:

Then in January 2001 I wrote:

January 21: Laid-back day

There was a mid-month Yum Cha today, but I didn’t make it. I met the Dowager Empress and PK in Paddy’s Market about 11 am. (They were the only ones who did make it!) Chinatown was buzzing for Chinese New Year: a street market, music, crowds. The Empress bought a pair of rather remarkable door knockers and a good fortune thing with lots of twirly bits–very garish. This afternoon Simon H and K., the actress, both came over–and a great afternoon it was. Consequently, one way or another, it looks as if I am off to the Wharf Theatre tomorrow night; I shall report on that later…

Sadly, Wollongong did not run to yum cha, though Steelers did try in 2012.

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I dropped in for lunch yesterday and found that they were launching a new Yum Cha service and a much redecorated restaurant. Literally Day One! So there was a bit of confusion about when and how the food would appear, but when it did it was very tasty. Let’s hope they get into the Yum Cha groove very quickly and get lots of customers. I suspect there must be a minimum customer level to make Yum Cha viable.

Sadly this experiment did fail. Now we have something similar to yum cha – a tea house experience with dumplings and steamed buns: Dumplings the cat’s meow.

Ziggy the cat has a short, white coat and a penchant for sitting on a warm laptop computer. 

Gravity fascinates him. He will happily push an expensive piece of glassware off a table in order to test its limits.  

Named after Ziggy Stardust – for his different coloured eyes – the eight-year-old mog is an old soul, according to owner Steen…

Opened on Monday, the cafe serves up a selection of more than 170 kinds of tea and a long menu of dumplings priced at $5 for three. 

“We make dumplings exactly how they’re done in China,” said Steen, best known for his involvement in Wollongong’s Phoenix Theatre. “We go to a company, we hand them our recipe, they make dumplings specifically for us.  It is a a group of women sitting around a table in a shop in Hurstville.  They’re all wonderful, fun ladies who sit there and make dumplings all day by hand. You can’t make dumplings by machine – they break.”

The cafe is a joint venture by Steen and partner Kevin Caucher.

It was inspired by the couple’s March holiday to Mr Caucher’s Chinese homeland.

I road-tested Ziggy’s on Christmas Eve and I shall no doubt return. The variety of tea is amazing: I selected Dragon Well 龙井茶. Mind you, I suspect they don’t have Jin Jun Mei: see Wollongong to Surry Hills, Shanghai and tea and Bargain eats in The Gong, and that tea from China…. I’ll ask them one day. The dumplings were very good but I ordered too many. Doggy-bagged some home for laters.

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At Ziggy’s House of Nomms (Illawarra Mercury)

The place was packed. I squeezed into a spot at the window bench. And there perhaps is a bit of a worry for the future. The place really is rather small. Full-on yum cha isn’t possible as there are not the numbers to make it work, a problem Steelers also ran into in 2012. Ordering  dumplings from the menu means there is a time lag to the table as each order is processed individually; the eating and talking take time too, so tables don’t turn around all that rapidly – and maybe there aren’t quite enough tables. On the other hand the quality and theatricality are drawing people in. I suspect Steen and Kevin Caucher will be run off their feet. I certainly hope so.

The background story is worth reading too. I find I knew Steen’s English teacher “back in the day”. See Phoenix boss Steen rises above difficult childhood.

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2 thoughts on “Ziggy’s House of Nomms

  1. Hey Neil. Kevin here. Thank you for the lovely review. We hope you did enjoy yourself at Ziggy’s.
    Just as a response to some of the points in your article, our space is indeed quite small and don’t have a high turnover, but we did set out to set up a tea house/cafe and didn’t expect the public receiving us as a dumpling house. We have been quite busy since the Mercury article – not that we are complaining, mind you.
    As for Jin Jun Mei, you’re correct in assuming we don’t have it, but I’m personally not opposed to adding more teas to our substantial tea list in the future. We only stocked some single origin Chinese teas at the moment. I am sure we will be adding more teas from around the world.
    Next time you come in, come say hi. After all, you’ll know which one I am, the bald Chinese guy. 🙂

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