Technically we do have a ban on French words, but…
It’s a cool Sunday morning in New Farm. You stroll down Merthyr road, way past the shops and into what feels like suburbia, when suddenly you find an old run-down cafe. Outside, a man who is wearing peach-coloured shorts and loafers without socks drinks a cup of coffee and stares distractedly into the distance. The cafe is filled with old books and has a french-sounding name. The food is excellent, the street is quiet. You talk with a friend for hours. All is well.
This hackneyed tableau could be the pulled straight from the plot of some dire ‘slice-of-life’ fiction, but really cafe Bouqiniste just is that quaint, and visiting it is an entirely uncontrived experience. The books are actually for a sale, the guy in peach shorts just likes peach shorts, and the owner looks and talks like she genuinely is bookish (I believe Bouquiniste means ‘bookseller’ in French). This morning’s visit left me with an acute awareness of the difference between authentic, grounded character and the ironic, post-cool schlock that pervades modern fashion. Although everyone tries, you can’t fake the ‘loved’ feel of a place that’s had real effort put into it.
The food is a similar mix of character without pretense – the meals are fairly simple and modestly sized, relying on quality ingredients and complementary flavours rather than anything too elaborate. Still, the Bouquiniste breakfast ($10) might be the cheapest full breakie in New Farm and what it lacks in flashiness it certainly makes up for as tasty comfort food. Perhaps the ‘best bit’ is the ham, which really is a lot like bacon except it’s slightly thicker and juicier. This is topped with a bean ratatouille and served on fresh ciabatta, along with a perfectly ripe side of avocado and tomato.
This was a much needed healthy counterpoint to last night’s dessicated servo pie and burger rings, but the real reviver was the coffee. I reckon mine came in a muesli bowl – I’ve seen bowls of coffee before but generally they are small bowls designed to hold lattes. This bowl was born for purposes other than hot drinks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it amounted to about two mugs worth of the house blend. Not bad for five bucks, both in terms of quality and volume. I’m told the chai isn’t quite as good, though it does come with flowers and a mini milk bottle.
I’ve eaten at Bouquiniste before and it seems that the simple menu doesn’t change a lot, but I encourage you to explore the range of meals on offer – I can certainly recommend the turkish bread for any vegetarians considering a visit. With summer coming on, this spot is only going to get better for those lazy weekend mornings. Hopefully the outdoor seating doesn’t rust away before then.