South Melbourne's native produce champion Mabu Mabu opens Yarraville cafe

Nornie Bero at Mabu Mabu cafe in Yarraville.
Nornie Bero at Mabu Mabu cafe in Yarraville.  Photo: Justin McManus

It has taken too long for Mabu Mabu to open. True, this indigenous ingredient-focused catering business and deli only opened as a stall at South Melbourne Market a year ago, so its expansion this week to a full-service cafe in Yarraville is right on track, if not a rapid progression.

But this is one of Melbourne's first Indigenous-owned and operated cafes – that is, starring, not just sprinkling on, native ingredients – and that has been a long time coming.

Torres Strait Islander chef-owner Nornie Bero and business partner Hugo Lamb started Mabu Mabu almost by chance, applying for a vacant market stall having only discussed their concept, then having to create the product range in one week for their (successful) interview.

Saltbush and pepperberry crocodile with lemon aspen aioli.
Saltbush and pepperberry crocodile with lemon aspen aioli. Photo: Justin McManus

Now they have bought the former Cobb Lane site on Anderson Street. A custom mural from Indigenous artist Coffin Birth (Charlotte Allingham) covers one brick wall, while rows of spice jars filled with pepperberry, saltbush and other spices and sauces for sale cover another.

Breakfast damper comes with native jams such as riberry or seaweed scrambled eggs.

Lunch might be saltbush and pepperberry crocodile with lemon aspen aioli, bush tacos with native succulent slaw or wild boar with saltbush chimichurri, warrigal greens and braised karkalla.

Seaweed scrambled eggs with manchego, crispy shallots and house-made organic sriracha.
Seaweed scrambled eggs with manchego, crispy shallots and house-made organic sriracha. Photo: Justin McManus

Drinks include non-alcoholic beers brewed with botanicals such as pepperberry IPA. The cafe will start out booze-free by design.

Bero is on a mission. Several. She's determined to get Australian ingredients on Australian kitchen shelves; hiring and mentoring a diverse team, having faced adversity herself; and ensuring maximum accessibility by using halal meats and vegan options.

Ingredients being wild-harvested or farmed (sourced through suppliers such as Bushlolly in South Australia) ensures everything is seasonal and sustainable by nature.

Kangaroo tail bourguignon.
Kangaroo tail bourguignon.  Photo: Justin McManus

The South Melbourne stall has moved, but will continue, along with the catering business.

Mabu Mabu opens Thursday, September 19, then Wed-Sun 7am-4pm at 13 Anderson Street, Yarraville, mabumabu.com.au