Aboriginal people have survived on bush food for more than 80,000 years. Over this time they have passed down from generation to generation a deep knowledge of Australian native ingredients and their myriad uses.
In recent times, Victoria has seen a marked increase in the use of native ingredients, with chefs at city and regional restaurants, cafes, food trucks and wineries exploring and celebrating these local flavours. While the influence of native ingredients varies, many Victorian kitchens feature these bush foods prominently and maintain their cultural integrity by being sourced and prepared by Aboriginal people.
For those who have a taste for bush food but don't know where to start, there are several Victorian eateries that pride themselves on showcasing native ingredients in their dishes, showcasing staple Indigenous meats and plants, such as eel, which has sustained Aboriginal people in South West Victoria for thousands of years.
Mabu Mabu Tuck Shop
Located in Melbourne's west, this cafe and catering business is Torres Strait owned and operated, named after a saying meaning 'help yourself'. Pick from a brunch-to-lunch menu of dishes infused with native flavours and ingredients, such as sago porridge, bush tacos with native succulent slaw and kangaroo tail bouguignon. Stock up on Indigenous ingredients for your own kitchen pantry, such as ground wattleseed, lemon myrtle spice and bush plum BBQ sauce.
Big Esso by Mabu Mabu
Chef Nornie Bero brings the success of the Yarraville business to to Narrm (Melbourne) with Big Esso by Mabu Mabu. The all-day bar and kitchen whips up Indigenous food in the form of share plates and seasonal dishes using native ingredients. There's work by Indigenous artists on the walls, 'Island Radio' of Indigenous musicians to tune into, and communal tables to raise a glass at.
Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) Bush Cafe
With its stunning natural setting within peaceful bush in Kalimna West, GLaWAC's Bush Cafe is the ideal spot to be introduced to Indigenous flavours used in modern ways, from salt bush and mountain pepper to bush tomatoes. Enjoy fresh local produce and bush tucker, then pop into the Aboriginal Art Gallery.
Dumu Balcony Cafe
First Nations business Dumu Balcony Cafe in Bright is a social enterprise that trains Indigenous youth, and serves up simple, tasty and nourishing eats made with seasonal ingredients sourced from local growers and producers. There's a balcony for summer, and an open fire for winter.
First Nations flavours are the stars at Indigenous-owned Cooee Cafe and Catering on the Mornington Peninsula. Pop in for hot brekkies and coffee, kangaroo burgers at lunch, and sweet treats such as lemon myrtle slice, and check out works by Indigenous artists on the walls.
Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Located just outside Geelong, Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre is part cultural centre, part retail outlet and part native garden, complete with native plants and animals. Stop at the cafe to sample the wattle-seed scones with wild rosella jam, wild bush berry pancakes, or the kangaroo burgers.