We're not sure if this new Armadale café lives up to its name. Inside the latest addition to Loren and Jamie McBride’s hospo empire – which includes Barry, Touchwood and Pillar of Salt – the staff have more charming efficiency than any lumbering woolly beast could muster, and there’s not a gnarled tusk or furry trunk in sight. Nothing about the interior suggests Pleistocene period: petite, split-level and angular, its white walls, timber tables and splashes of cobalt blue feel fresh and modern.
The menu is very much of the moment, too, steering café classics in some intriguing directions: the pancakes are lamington-flavoured, a bagel is scented with lavender and there’s duck sausage with your eggs Benedict. This creativity produces unexpected delights, such as the premium drawcard, the lobster donut burger. Those three words may not usually combine into a recipe for deliciousness, but at Mammoth they pull it off. A soft and springy bun top is dusted with sugar and salt; next comes cucumber chutney with sprigs of coriander; and beneath that you’ll find generous chunks of fleshy, sweet, lobster meat. This all sits atop neat squares of cabbage, a squirt of Sriracha mayonnaise and a bun base. It’s fun, unexpectedly light and quite delicious.
A satisfying dashi broth dish comes in two parts. The dark, flavour-packed mushroom-and-bacon broth arrives in a transparent teapot before being carefully poured into a shallow bowl filled with pearl barley rubble and a green jumble of raw bean shoots, coriander and Vietnamese mint. It looks like the contents of a turtle’s tank, but do persevere. It’s nutty and fragrant – a little like a pho crossed with a congee – and comes with a gorgeous not-too-spicy chilli sauce.
For afters, you may be tempted by the muffins and mini cakes on the front counter, but the Golden Gaytime panna cotta is where it’s at. Subtle, creamy vanilla panna cotta is scattered with popping cocoa candy, chocolate discs and nuggets of honeycomb. Glinting naughtily within are shreds of gold leaf (we are in Armadale, after all), and the whole glorious concoction pays sophisticated homage to the great Australian ice cream. Desserts will nudge you in the direction of a beverage. A coffee (by Five Senses) brings a full-bodied conclusion to the experience; or, if you’ve managed to resist everything except temptation, a pressed juice could start your next health kick.
Open just a few months and already attracting a clientele encompassing fresh-faced local twenty-somethings, those who’ve lived a bit longer and know what they like and Instagramming pilgrims who’ll spread the word across town, this is a Mammoth whose vivacity will keep it safe from extinction for aeons.