When I first laid eyes on an Instagram picture of a Golden Gaytime panna cotta, I knew I had to go on a pilgrimage to eat it. The longer I waited to undertake my mission, the more photos I saw pop up on Instagram. Word was quickly getting out on the street. Reports of long wait times started surfacing, and so I hastily locked in plans to visit during a weekday to avoid the crowds.
The cafe was called Mammoth, which coincidentally, very aptly describes the size of the hype around it. Mammoth is the latest venture by the couple who co-own the popular Barry cafe in Northcote, who also have family ties credited to opening bustling Richmond cafes Pillar of Salt and Touchwood. Add a chef who used to cook at one of my favourite cafes, Hammer and Tong, on top of using some 5 senses coffee beans, and I am beaming with head banging excitement.
10:15am Thursday. With expectations of a line akin to the iphone 6 launch, we have an early win by driving straight into a vacant off-street car spot. As luck would have it, our timing was impeccable. Despite a cafe full of activity, our waiter magically parts the sea of people, and we are seated at a vacant table almost immediately.
Still a little bemused, I ordered a coffee and looked at the menu. I think I left drool marks on it.
This is a prime example of what I like to call a “grand slam of menus”. A menu that is so good, that with the right amount of dedication, I order every item on the menu over a number of visits. I used to do this for fun during my uni days at local cafes, and to be honest, I haven’t seen a grand slam menu in a while. Until now. I became very hungry, very quickly.
The first item we ordered was the Lobster donut burger, with green mango and papaya slaw, cucumber jam and sriracha kimpi mayo. Let me say that again in capitals… we ordered a LOBSTER DONUT BURGER! How is it possible that these ingredients, superstars on their own, would come together and work as a threesome?
It started out tasting as a cinnamon donut but adding the green mango and papaya slaw, cucumber jam and siracha kimpi mayo gave it a balanced freshness, sweetness and saltiness. While the lobster did get a little diluted with the other ingredients commanding the attention of my tastebuds, it was a bold move making donuts and lobster work like that. Expensive, but worth splurging on at least once in your life.
The next dish we tried turned out to be a trojan horse of flavour. It sounded interesting, but it was a gluten free side dish. A backup singer. A bridesmaid that shouldn’t take the attention away from the bride. But it completely stole the show. The egg and bacon popcorn was our favourite dish of the day. It was the taste of a delicious breakfast in one light bite. Literally flavoursome bacon and eggs with hardly any calories!! I could sense an internal personal battle brewing, trying to be civilized and polite, fighting against my urges to launch at the bowl with giant handfuls.
Next came the North Shore – a smokey ham hock hash, with flame grilled pineapple, tobasco, jalapeño popper and a poached egg, followed by The Benedict with duck sausage, orange and corn blini, pickled onion, fried egg and smoked maple hollandaise. This menu certainly isn’t for the feint hearted, especially people who like their food served in the original or classic way. Both dishes served were progressive, showcasing technique, creativity and experience. While I have curious tastebuds, they woke up this morning feeling classic, so these dishes didn’t quite work for me today. I liked the concept of a sweet/savoury benedict but the flavour and sweetness of the orange blini and maple hollandaise took it a bit too far across the border into dessert territory for my liking.
The last dish of the day was officially our dessert, a Golden Gaytime panna cotta, with honey comb, sablé biscuit and chocolate coated popping candy. She was beautiful. Hard to go wrong using the classic Golden Gaytime combination of toffee, vanilla, chocolate and biscuits, it’s been around for almost 50 years! Again, a great job by the chef to breathe some modern life into a crowd pleasing classic.
With so much more on the menu to discover, I look forward to my next visit and perhaps even achieve a “grand slam”, tasting everything on the menu, although I foresee the egg and bacon popcorn derailing my plans. While still only a few weeks old, the team @eatmammoth is so hot right now. The secret is out, get in quick!