As of February this year Mama Jambo is the newest café to open up in the unique warehouse space (formerly Hello, Yes) on Eliza Street in the CBD. Jambo is Swahili for ‘hello’ and fittingly Mama Jambo offers modern Australian cuisine with an African twist. Mama Jambo is co-owned by Connie Fiala Mmadike, Caroline Mosha and Troy Bellchambers. Connie is married to a Nigerian and Caroline to a Tanzanian and it is through these partnerships from which the café draws its African inspiration. The fit-out boasts plenty of character and charm through the use of recycled material including refurbished vintage furniture, wine barrels and walls lined with repurposed shipping crates. Whilst Mama Jambo currently occupies a single level which can comfortably seat fifty people, there are plans to expand upstairs with a gallery space. Mama Jambo has a seasonal menu that cleverly incorporates African flavours with locally-sourced fresh ingredients. The menu at Mama Jambo provides breakfast, lunch and dinner options and everything in between (think coffee, cocktails and dessert). Adelaide Food Central was invited to sample the current autumn lunch menu before the upcoming winter menu (which I hear will comprise warm hearty stews) is rolled out.
First in our line of sight was the Spicy Jerk Chicken served with a pumpkin dip. These chicken wings were that finger lickin’ good that I wanted more than just one bowl! It was a fight between Mr L and I as to who got the last tasty morsel… of course I won. When it comes to wings the messier you get when you eat them the better I say and the wings at Mama Jambo were certainly no exception. The drumettes were succulent on the inside with a delicious flavourful crispy skin on the outside; another sign of a good chicken wing. The pumpkin dip was creamy and complemented the spicy kick of the chicken; however I thought the chicken was perfect on its own. The Spicy Jerk Chicken certainly set the bar high.
As no lunch spread is complete without a burger, we opted for the MJ’s Beef Burger with Swiss cheese, pickled pineapple, caramelised onion jam, Jambo’s secret sauce and mesclun greens served with a side of sweet potato chips. The beef patty was well-seasoned, juicy, cooked medium (as stated on the menu) and had a lovely pink hue, but more importantly it was the same diameter as the bun on which it sat. I absolutely loved the chunky caramelised onion jam, the sweetness it provided was out of this world; however I didn’t particularly like the slice of pickled pineapple and felt it was an unnecessary addition to an already scrumptious burger. The brioche bun held up well to all the condiments including the lashings of Jambo’s creamy secret sauce. The sweet potato chips were a nice alternative to standard potato fries. All in all this burger was delicious and a prime example of how keeping it simple is best when it comes to a burger.
We couldn’t look past the ‘Special of the Day’ which was Pan-seared Kingfish with a charred corn, fennel, lime and coriander salad served with capsicum purée, crispy dill and beetroot crisps. What a mouthful of ingredients but boy was it impeccably presented, almost too pretty to eat… well almost! The hero of the dish was indeed the fish which was perfectly cooked with the flesh flaking away with minimal effort, whilst the skin was well-seasoned and oh-so-crispy. All the other elements on the plate were fresh and bursting with flavour. The charred corn kernels afforded a nice smoky flavour, whilst the fennel was crunchy and added a mild anise-like flavour. The capsicum purée was rich and tangy which married well the fish. My favourite element of the dish (well besides the fish) was the beetroot crisps. Yum! Mama Jambo can you bag these and sell them please?!
Up next was the Slow-cooked Shredded Goat with roast beetroot purée, charred onion, pickled zucchini, goat’s cheese and beetroot leaf crisps. Now I have eaten beetroot leaves in a salad before but I have never had beetroot leaf crisps. Move over kale chips, beetroot leaf crisps are taking over! Whilst I was a tad sceptical at trying the goat it surprisingly could have been mistaken for shredded beef. The meat was well-seasoned and complemented the other elements on the plate from the earthy tones of the roast beetroot purée, to the creamy goat’s cheese and the tangy pickled zucchini ribbons. It is probably a good time to point out two things Mama Jambo does really, really well. Each and every dish is well-thought out in terms of both flavour profile and presentation. The dishes really are art on a plate and colourful art at that! Secondly, many of the dishes have multiple components which you wouldn’t necessarily expect to work together, but somehow they do… seamlessly and exceptionally well!
Our final savoury dish was the Portobello Mushroom with melted goat’s cheese, carrot and quinoa salad and spicy pumpkin crème. The mushroom was deliciously juicy and I loved the pairing with the melted goat’s cheese. The soft flesh of the mushroom contrasted nicely with the crunchy carrot and radish in the salad. This dish is a great option for vegetarians (and meat lovers too).
Given that we are little piggies we also decided to try two sweet dishes. The first of these was the Pancakes served with stewed fruit and cream from the Breakfast menu; again ten out of ten for presentation. The pancakes were light and airy and cleverly had the cream folded between each of the two pancakes. The combination of stewed and fresh fruit (think strawberries, blueberries and pear) added a natural sweetness to the dish and I loved the textural addition of the crushed nuts sprinkled on top. This dish was another well-executed menu item that would make a perfect any-time-of-day sweet treat.
We finished off our African-inspired feast in true decadence with the Puff Puffs and Coffee Chocolate Dipping Sauce from the Dinner menu. Puff Puffs are a traditional African snack similar to a donut. On arrival to the table I could smell the cinnamon aroma wafting up from the warm, deep fried balls which were almost reminiscent of Greek loukoumades. Whilst the texture of the Puff Puff dough was a tad chewy for my liking, the dipping sauce was rich and velvety smooth and not overly sweet owing to a dark chocolate base; but unfortunately the coffee flavour was somewhat lacking. Whilst not my favourite dish of the day, I can now say I have tried an African dessert and definitely wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.
Given that Mr L is an Espresso Martini lover and Mama Jambo just happen to have a Cocktail menu, Mr L couldn’t say no to washing down lunch with a Pole Pole Martini; the African equivalent of an Espresso Martini. I think after this Mr L was ready for a little afternoon kip.
The service at Mama Jambo was everything you could want and more… smiling faces that were happy to please. What I love about Mama Jambo is that despite its inner city location the café is adequately tucked away from the hustle and bustle meaning you can actually sit back and enjoy the peacefulness and chilled out vibe that Mama Jambo has to offer. Meals were generously portioned and well-matched in price ranging from $12 to $24. Mama Jambo is open for breakfast and lunch Monday to Thursday and breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday. So come say a big ‘Jambo’ to Eliza Street’s newest resident, Mama Jambo.
Adelaide Food Central would like to sincerely thank Caroline and her friendly Mama Jambo team on the day for their generous hospitality. All food and drink was provided free of charge.
Words by Kelly Betterman
WHERE: 12 Eliza St, Adelaide