Food News

Now open in Melbourne: Manzé, a Mauritian restaurant and wine bar with a seafood-leaning menu and natural wines

Mauritius has a diverse cuisine, but the focus here is on its South Asian and East African influences. Plus, there's a drinks list dominated by expressive natural wines.

Manzé's dining room;

Photo: Jacqui Shelton

It’s hard to find Mauritian food in Melbourne. The majority of Australia’s Mauritian-born community live in Melbourne, but the city has just a handful of Mauritian restaurants, clustered mainly around Dandenong, in Melbourne’s south-east. But judging by the reception to Manzé – North Melbourne’s cosy new restaurant and wine bar – diners are hungry for the island nation’s food.

“I thought we’d be pretty quiet to be entirely honest,” says chef and co-owner Nagesh Seethiah. “We were like, yeah we can do this, we’ll do like 25 covers a night and be a bit busy on the weekend, and now we’ve opened and we’re doing 50 a night, every night.”

Manzé (which means “eat” in many French-based creole languages, including Mauritian creole) opened just over a week ago on North Melbourne’s Errol Street, about a 15-minute walk from the Queen Victoria Markets. For Mauritius-born Seethiah, it’s been a long time coming. He’s worked as a chef and front-of-house staff at venues including Canberra’s Bar Rochford and Anchovy and Capitano in Melbourne. A few years ago, he started hosting pop-up dinners under the Manzé moniker, celebrating the Mauritian food he grew up eating. Earlier this year, when the Errol Street space became available, Seethiah’s friends, artist Jason Phu and journalist Osman Faruqi, encouraged Seethiah to take on the lease. Not only did he lease the space, but his friends joined him as co-owners of the business too.

“We were chatting about what I was doing with the pop-ups and what the next step was and they were both like, ‘Why don’t we do it?'” says Seethiah. “Why don’t we open a really great place that reflects our values and adds to the landscape with something unique?”

Errol Street looking onto Victoria Street. Photo: Jacqui Shelton

Of course, COVID-19 didn’t exactly make it easy. But now, after months of lockdown delays, Manzé is finally open. The weather’s heating up in a city that’s dusting itself off from yet another winter spent indoors. And Manzé, with its tropical, seafood-leaning menu and a wine list that’s heavy on expressive white drops (courtesy of Moira Tirtha, the multi-talented editor of Veraison, everyone’s new favourite vino mag), feels just right for the moment.

Mauritius is a lush and beautiful multicultural island nation in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Madagascar. (You may know it as the former home of the dodo.) What you might not know is that Mauritian cuisine, owing to centuries of European colonisation, is extremely diverse.

“[Mauritian cuisine] is pretty broad,” Seethiah says. “It’s a really diverse mix of French pastry influence, East African flavours and cooking techniques, South Asian cuisine and Hakka Chinese influences – we’re definitely focusing on that South Asian, African lean.”

For Seethiah, that means a menu that reflects his heritage as an Indian-Mauritian. (Mauritius has a South Asian majority population. Over its history, Mauritius’ various colonisers used slave labour to power its sugar production. Following the formal abolition of slavery in the early 19th century, in Mauritius – then under British rule – the system continued as indentured servitude, which saw hundreds of thousands of labourers from Britain’s colonies on the Indian subcontinent shipped over the ocean to work the plantations.)

“I’m seventh-generation Indian, descended from indentured labourers from the south of India, so our food is quite light,” he says. “Lots of seafood, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, not too heavy on the spice – it’s really fragrant and vibrant and goes really well with natural wine.”

Although the menu’s due for a complete revamp in a month or two, that breadth of influences and ingredients is on full display on the current set menu. It starts with a potato and prawn samosa, and poutou, a South Asian steamed coconut and rice cake (at Manzé, it’s served with asparagus and a coconut-mint chutney). Next comes a classic Mauritian bouillon poisson (fish stew) with Corner Inlet salmon, followed by spiced lamb with rice, and a fresh mango sponge and coconut cream to finish.

The Manzé kitchen. Photo: Jacqui Shelton

The room itself is a tight 25-seater in a former pizzeria, furnished with warm wood, rattan chairs, with light columns and dark-green accent walls. North and West Melbourne have seen a flurry of new venues open over the last couple of years, with newcomers such as Udom House, Benchwarmer and 279 joining more established players like Westwood, Little Africa and Balinese institution Warung Agus. Manzé’s opening is yet another sign that the twin suburbs, particularly at and around the intersection between Errol Street and Victoria Street, have together become one of the most exciting and diverse precincts to dine in Melbourne right now.

“I’ve lived here since I moved to Melbourne, and I always thought there should be more here,” Seethiah says. “Everyone loves living here but they don’t spend time here on the weekend – I think every neighbourhood deserves good little restaurants and wine bars, and it’s just nice to be part of a young community doing really independent things.”


Shop 2/1-5 Errol St, North Melbourne Vic

Open for dinner Wed–Sat 5.30pm–11pm

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