Sunshine warms the crisp autumn morning. Several Melba locals bask in these sun-drenched pockets of the courtyard as they wait outside Café MAMÉ, anticipating a morning coffee and pastries.
Social distancing means only one patron at one time can be in the cafe, so owners Jiwoo and Amy ensure the cafe’s cheery tunes filter to those outside.
The morning-ritual sounds of brewing coffee drift comfortingly out, too. The snap, thud and drip of the coffee machine. The hiss of the steam wand teasing a jug of milk into froth. And what has lured us all here? The aroma of roasted coffee beans being ground into delicious submission.
MAMÉ is brand new, only four weeks old. And with COVID-19 restrictions, it is not the beginning Jiwoo and Amy hoped for. Yet, there is real joy and warmth in their smiles and their easy rapport with customers. Locals are delighted that MAMÉ has opened in Melba Court and are backing them with enthusiastic patronage.
“The massive support from our community makes Amy and I feel grateful and blessed,” Jiwoo says. “We will give back to them, with the best that we can offer. The hospitality industry is all about people. This is our industry and we would like to bring joy to our community by providing good food, drinks and service.”
MAMÉ is their first independent venture together, Jiwoo says, but the pair met and fell in love when they both worked as chefs at Courgette restaurant. They bring that skill-set to their café.
The line out the door is not just because of MAMÉ’s great coffee. The pastries at MAMÉ are always changing and one glance at their Instagram page is enough to see that this is not home-style baking.
Salted anglaise dacquoise, Nutella brownie, canelé and lemon coconut cake were available on the day I visited but the freshly baked hot cross buns had just sold out. Amy and Jiwoo bake everything in-house except for the croissants, which they order in from Sonoma.
“Amy and I like to bake anything tasty, and if you have something so good then you want to share it with your family or friends,” Jiwoo says with a big grin. “That’s what motivates us to create. We love making good things and sharing. That’s it.”
Here is what I ate.
Amy’s salted anglaise dacquoise is a filled meringue sandwich. Chew through feather-light layers of almond and hazelnut meringue to sink your teeth into the smooth salted buttercream and fresh strawberries sandwiched between. That salted creamy filling is to die for.
The Nutella Brownie is rich, fudgy discs of brownie stuck together with a smooth Nutella cream filling.
Like a plate of Mediterranean sunshine, my grilled vegetable and pesto toastie is bursting with the mellow flavours of zucchini and eggplant, the sweetness of red onion and the zing of capsicum. Spread with a rich herbed hit of pesto, the deliciousness is all held together by firm, toasted bread.
I nearly, very nearly, did not buy a plain friand. Thank goodness I did. Behind this unassuming little pastry is the touch of a master’s hand. It is impossibly light, with delicate moist crumbs inside, and the most satisfying buttery crunch and chew to its exterior. This is my favourite friand of all time.
Of course, the coffee is great, too. And those big smiles from Jiwoo and Amy, which drew me into MAMÉ in the first place as I walked past with my groceries one day.
“We just love what we do,” Jiwoo says, “and hope everyone is safe and we are back to normal soon. We cannot wait to serve you all in-house. We love you, Melba!”
Café MAMÉ is located at Shop 2/4-6 Melba Ct in Melba. Its deliciousness caters to vegans and other dietary requirements.