Though indigenous cuisine is increasingly available in Australia, venues serving dishes from the Torres Strait Islands on the mainland are still rare. The collection of nearly 300 islands above northeastern Australia have been home to Torres Strait Islanders for nearly 70,000 years, and chef Nornie Bero is taking that long history and putting it on a plate.
Bero, a member of the Komet tribe of Mer Island, opened a market stall in Melbourne in 2016 serving island specialties and afterwards a small restaurant in Yarraville called Mabu Mabu. Her most recent and ambitious endeavor, the much larger eatery Mabu Mabu Big Esso, opened in late 2021.
On the menu are foods from Bero’s own childhood, made with native ingredients. That means dishes such as wattleseed pavlova, emu filet with saltbush chimichurri, and breadfruit seasoned with bush tomato.
Big Esso also sports what Bero considers Australia’s first indigenous bar, highlighting local producers and ingredients, resulting in the Green Ant-tini (made with green-ant gin) and a Davidson’s plum gimlet. Plus, a small store on site carries indigenous-made products. All these things fit into Bero’s mission of making local traditional foods accessible to all.
Know Before You Go
The restaurant is located across from the ACMI museum. It serves lunch and dinner.