Mabu Mabu review

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

13 Anderson St Yarraville, VIC 3013

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Opening hours Wed-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Features Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options

The first wave of Indigenous ingredients on restaurant tables was a crime of overkill in the Crocodile Dundee era.

The second wave put diners on nodding terms with saltbush, Davidson plum and wallaby as chefs such as Attica's Ben Shewry and Navi's Julian Hills made a far more intelligent case for going native.

But now the third wave is upon us, and it's a fanfare for the common person with the opening of Yarraville's Mabu Mabu. Chef Nornie Bero hails from the Torres Strait and is aiming to make native flora and fauna menu stars rather than support acts; it's a bold new paradigm that deserves to win people over one crunchy nugget of saltbush and pepperberry fried crocodile at a time.

Mabu Mabu cafe owner and chef Nornie Bero.
Mabu Mabu cafe owner and chef Nornie Bero. Photo: Justin McManus

The space

In Yarraville's ridiculously cute village it's an inviting place of whitewashed brick walls and a busy open kitchen, with the statement of intent broadcast in a colourful mural from Indigenous artist Coffin Birth (aka Charlotte Allingham) and serried rows of salts, preserves and chilli sauces that Bero makes with native ingredients.

The food

Seaweed scrambled eggs with manchego, crispy shallots and macadamia sriracha.
Seaweed scrambled eggs with manchego, crispy shallots and macadamia sriracha. Photo: Justin McManus

Damper served straight from the oven plays like a delicious bready scone with Nutella whipped with golden syrup (a vegan revelation) and rosella and blueberry jam. Scrambled eggs are no mere scrambled eggs thanks to the quiver of different seaweeds in the fluffy egg cloud and the sriracha Bero makes with macadamias for more of a nutty taste ("I'm an island girl," she says).

Salt cod gets its groove on with classic pineapple fritters and a tumble of slaw made with Tuscan cabbage, samphire and karkalla (pigface) for a soothing, cucumber-like crunch. There's a rich kangaroo tail bourguignon and that crocodile, much like salt-and-pepper calamari, served with lemon aspen aioli. On the side? Try a mild wallaby sausage, meaty strips of wild boar bacon or sauteed warrigal greens.

The coffee

The non-caffeinated wattleseed latte.
The non-caffeinated wattleseed latte. Photo: Justin McManus

The barista pays due fealty to Proud Mary's Angel Wings beans: it's a true brew, still punching under the addition of Saint David Dairy milk.

The drinks

There's some excellent extracurricular work in this department, starting with the wattleseed coffee. This non-caffeinated latte – think of a mildly nutty chai with a minty kick – ought to put any decaf drinkers to shame.

Round the list out with native kombucha, desert lime granita perfect for the hot weather, and non-alcoholic finger lime cerveza and pepperberry IPA.

Loving The proof of life beyond the identikit Melbourne cafe menu, with added bounce from the ethical feel-goods of eating native plants and proteins.

Not getting Why some diners think it's OK to stick their fingers in the chilli sauce bottle. Not acceptable, people!

Vegan factor Four items, including the damper and sago porridge with native fruit compote.

Overheard "It's a little too early for me to go for the crocodile."

https://www.mabumabu.com.au/