Photo: Linda Hampton
By day, Collingwood bar 99 Problems is styled after an entirely different song. From 8am to 4pm it operates as a café by the name The Mercy Seat, where light floods in through the large front windows and little succulent plants dot the tables.
Like 99 Problems, The Mercy Seat bears exactly none of the angst of its namesake song, in this case a skin-crawling meditation on punishment by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Like the bar that takes over the premises at 4pm, it’s a relaxed affair with friendly staff and a great music selection which leans toward the indie end of the spectrum.
The menu is completely vegetarian, with lots of vegan options available. It may sound like a contradiction in terms to say that it’s also strongly influenced by American diner cuisine, but in practice it works brilliantly. The lunch menu includes a faux Philly cheesesteak roll, equally faux Creole chicken burger and not at all faux blackened tofu and mushroom burger piled with salsa and chunks of avocado. Breakfast is available all day for those seeking something a little lighter, and the cake trolley is always worth a squiz (not least because it looks like a Jenga tower on wheels). Coffee by local roasters Padre and a range of soft drinks and smoothies round things out: alternatively, The Mercy Seat is licensed, so you can wash your scrambled eggs down with a glass of wine if you choose.
In its relatively short time in operation, 99 Problems has become a neighbourhood favourite: with the Mercy Seat signage out it’s every bit as relaxed and likable.