I have a small connection to one of Melbourne’s leading families in hospitality. My dad is a house cleaner and some of his regular clients include various members of the Sahely and McBride families who own cool cafes around Melbourne – Touchwood, Pillar of Salt, Barry, BAWA Coffee and Food, Square and Compass and Mammoth.
Dad’s always updating me on how his clients are going (all about the new babies in the family!), and telling me about their new cafes. He makes it sound so enticing that K and I decided to drop into Mammoth for Sunday lunch one weekend before an afternoon window-shopping in nearby shopping villages.
Mammoth is understandably popular and we ended up waiting about ten minutes before getting shown to a four-person table which we shared with a mother and daughter duo. The clientele is a mix of preppy locals and others more like us who fit in the “Asian food blogger / food-obsessed traipse-all-over-town-for-a-good-meal” category.
I ordered a hot chocolate from our waitress before K drew my attention to the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate on the specials board. Say no more – I flagged our waitress down to change my order. This was an inspired choice and even K who tends to shy away from salted caramel products had to admit that it was a far superior drink to his simple Cappuccino.
The trick is to create a blend that enhances the smooth caramel and chocolate tones on the palate, before ending with a short and sharp salty bite that doesn’t linger. A heavenly combination, and I hope they add this drink to the regular drinks menu!
As a Sydney North Shore boy, K was immediately drawn to their North Shore breakfast of ham hock, grilled pineapple and poached eggs. Clearly the name of the dish refers not to Sydney North Shore but more accurately to the surfing mecca that is the North Shore of Hawaii’s Oahu island. The featured pineapple and ham is a definite nod to the Aloha state.
My favourite element of this dish was most definitely the fresh pineapple, enhanced with a sweet caramelised brulee top that shattered with a tap. The sweetness of the pineapple went well with the spiciness of the cheesy jalapeno popper, and the savoury meatiness of the fried ham. It’s definitely the type of dish where each individual element works really well on its own, but really shines when combined.
Much has been written about Mammoth’s famous lobster doughnut burger. Some are doubters – in fact K thought it sounded a bit gimmicky though he ended up changing his mind! The menu had changed slightly, and as of early August, they were serving up a Doughnut Burger with a chicken katsu filling. Don’t be disappointed – without having tried the lobster burger myself, I’d venture a guess and say that this version with chicken katsu is as good as the original, if not better.
Like K’s meal, this was really all about individual elements that stand out on their own, that come together to create something even better. The chicken katsu was hot and crispy with beautifully tender chicken fillet. The green mango and papaya slaw had the right touch of sweetness, sourness, and just a bit of crunch. The savoury yet somehow sweet doughnut was light, fluffy and springy. Combined, it created a burger that was just absolutely delectable. If there’s any downside, it’s that the bottom of the doughnut does soak up all the sauces and juices of the burger very quickly, so it does get a little bit soggy. Not a big issue!
Mammoth is a cafe that deserves its high reputation and glowing reviews. While the menu is innovative in the way that it reimagines the classics, enough of the core ingredients remain to make it familiar to a wider audience. Meals are beautifully presented, wait staff are friendly, and service is prompt. Prices for meals are a little bit higher than your average cafe, but you do get what you pay for.
Now to visit the other cafes owned by the same family…
Mammoth is located at 736 Malvern Road in Armadale.