MELBOURNE | Manzé is a modern Mauritian restaurant and wine bar from co-owner and head chef Nagesh Seethiah. It’s an evolution of pop-ups that he did in between COVID lockdowns, cooking the food he grew up with, with flair and skills learned cooking in a variety of restaurants in Melbourne and Canberra.
The North Melbourne space is small. Only 24 seats that can be booked, and a few set aside for walk ins. Currently, it’s a rotating set menu on offer, a steal at $65 per head, plus a few add on options. I first tried Nagesh’s food at a pop-up he did at Theodore’s in Brunswick in July 2021. My first experience of Mauritian food, I was enthralled by the vibrancy of the flavours, and familiar yet new elements of many of the dishes.
This exciting element to the food of Mauritius comes from the diversity of its people, and the important role it played as part of the spice route. The island, with no native population, was colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British, with slaves brough over from Madagascar and East Africa. The resulting cuisine reflects all of these influences.
South Indian influences feature strong on the menu at Manzé. There’s a big seafood and vegetable focus, with an emphasis on tropical flavours and seasonality. Local producers and growers doing things sustainably and ethically are championed, with nearby Queen Victoria Market providing quick access to what’s fresh and good on any given day. Lots of fresh spices (but not so much heat), and an array of house-made condiments.
Everything that came to the table impressed, from the crudités with sour plum and du sel piment, to the malabar spinach and ginger broth and Barongarook pork with Manzé masala and tamarind. Each dish an explosion of freshness, flavour, and joy.
One of the dishes currently on there is the Aquna Murray cod with preserved lemon, bitter melon, and basamati rice. It’s brilliant. Two additions were available when I visited, one being the head of the fish used in the former dish. Instead of being tossed away or used in stock, Nagesh lightly fries the head and serves it with salt flakes, flame roasted pima cari / pardon peppers, and a zesty sauce.
It’s a nod to a dish that Nagesh’s mother would cook for him and his sister as a child, to snack on while waiting for dinner. A perfect example of how Manzé has a forward thinking, sustainable philosophy that’s still rooted in family and tradition.
To drink, low-intervention wines are the focus here. They’ve been chosen by Moira Tirtha – Manzé’s floor manager and editor of wine mag Veraison. The sustainable and delicious memo extends to the wine list, with options by the glass of all variety. We opted for a light Adelaide Hills pet nat which paired wonderfully with the lightness of the food. There’s also other options for non-wine drinkers.
It’s only March, but Manzé’s already made its way to the top of my ‘favourite new openings of 2022’ list. I can’t think of any where else in this city, let alone Australia, where you can find a modern take on Mauritian cuisine. Do yourself a favour and make a booking – you’ll enjoy one of the best meals you can have in Melbourne right now.
Shop 2, 1-5 Errol Street
E-mail: [email protected]
Wed – Sat: 5:30pm to 11:00pm