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.
“He’s a strange little cat when he wants food he goes ‘nomm nomm nomm’,” Steen said, smacking his chops.
The curious mog is the name behind a new Keira Street dumpling and tea cafe, Ziggy’s House of Nomms.
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.
“You walk into a cafe in China – you expect to buy dumplings,” Steen said.
“We were constantly having dumplings for lunch, dumplings for dinners and fell in love with the idea of it.
“We were inspired in particular by this little French cafe, it’s on the banks of the Pearl River in Huizhou city.
“You don’t expect a 2000-year-old Chinese city to walk into this tiny French explosion. It was just amazing, so richly decorated, and they sold really, really, really good tea.”
The cafe’s busy interior shows a wide selection of T2 tes and Altitude Tea – hand picked, grown and blended in China.
The ceiling is a riot of bright Morrocan lanterns and the walls are covered in busy pressed tin.
“We wanted to make something that had an exotic feel,” Steen said.
Chocolate dumplings contribute to the quirky.
The restaurant was several weeks from opening when MoChi – the dumpling spin-off of Wollongong’s lone hatted restaurant, Caveaux – opened several doors down.
Steen said he was unperturbed. “They’re a restaurant, we’re a cafe,” he said. “We’re doing different things.”