Melbourne’s Tjanabi Indigenous Restaurant

Okay, vegetarian readers.  This post might not be up your street.  On our second night in Melbourne, we took the short walk from our hotel to Federation Square where dinner was to be enjoyed in Tjanabi, The All Australia Restaurant.  It turned into quite the meat fest!

The word Tjanabi means ‘to celebrate’ in the language of the original inhabitants of Melbourne and the idea of this restaurant is literally to celebrate the local and indigenous foods.  They have done this by creating a menu made up entirely of local produce and indigenous ingredients, and the restaurant is a great way to have a culinary crash course in Australian indigenous food.

We had tried our first kangaroo on our Foodies’ Dream Tour at Queen Victoria Market earlier in the day, and our aim at Tjanabi was to try as many different Australian meats as possible.

Tjanabi enabled us to do this by offering the option of Taster Plates, with which we started. The idea was kind of like an All Australian Tapas.  There are 11 possible options on the menu and you can choose 4, 6, or 8 selections.  We went for 6 and ticked a few of the meats we wanted to try off our list in one quick starter!

Starter Tasting Plates

Clockwise from bottom left we had:

Emu kabana with gippsland chedder

Chargrilled baby octopus in a marinade of balsamic vinegar and aniseed Myrtle

Wild Tamarind basted wallaby filllet with tomato and coriander salmis

Kangaroo Chorizo served with native pepper and tomato relish

Lemon myrtle green curried mussels

Crocodile sausage with sunrise lime and hot chilli salsa

Instead of ordering two large main courses, our waiter suggested that we continue in the vein of tasting by ordering from the Small Plates menu, which offered 9 options of starter sized courses.  He suggested we go for 6, which in the end was just a bit too much, but we battled on!!

all the plates

The 6 small plates that myself and Niall shared…and almost finished!

crocodile tails

Crocodile tail fillet crumbed in coastal saltbush and coconut served with desert lime and ginger aoli

duck with rice

Soy glazed roasted Duck served in a sweet and sour Davidson plum sauce with a pilaf of wild and jasmine rice


Carpaccio of eye fillet crusted with sea salt and strawberry eucalyptus, nasturtium flower and crispy saltbush garnish, pepper-leaf and macadamia nut oil

goats cheese and eel

Banksia and red gum smoked gippsland Eel and goats cheese gateaux with Northern rivers finger lime and wasabi sauce


Beetroot and lemon myrtle cured Barramundi and hickory smoked Tasmanian Salmon on a salad of young leaves with lemon aspen dressing

veg stack

Chargrilled vegetable stack with zucchini, aubergine and fire roasted capsicum seasoned with Tasmanian pepper and crispy saltbush


Semi-freddo of Strawberry Eycalyptus and dark chocolate swirl on an amaretto chocolate sauce

We enjoyed another lovely Victorian wine with our meal, this time the Rugus Stone Heathcote Victoria Shiraz (2007).  They certainly good wines here in Victoria.  More on that later!

Apart from the baby octopus, which wasn’t to our taste as the balsamic vinegar made it very bitter and didn’t compliment the fish, everything that we had here was good.  The stand out dishes were the kangaroo chorizo (a delicious spicy meat with a hot tomato sauce, a different way to eat kangaroo), the wallaby fillet (a juicy tender meat with a distinctive taste), the crocodile tail fillets (a much finer alternative to chicken goujons!), the Carpaccio (literally melt in your mouth stuff, really tasty) and the Barramundi and Salmon (the Barramundi not only looked beautiful, with the intsense pink and purple colouring, but it tasted fantastic as well).

The best part of Tjanabi was not only are you able to get an introduction to a lot of Australian meats and fish, but the dishes also use a lot of indigenous seasoning.  We had our first saltbush, a herb that looks a lot like sage, and is, as the name goes, a salty bush used as an alternative to salt!  There was also the lemon myrtle which seems to be quite a versatile seasoning.

With the goats cheese and eel gateaux, the dressing included the finger lime, which we had been introduced to earlier at the Queen Victoria Market.  It’s called a finger lime as it resembles, well, a finger!  You slice it open and inside are little balls of lime, almost like lime caviar if you can imagine that.  Our guide on The Foodies’ Tour explained that it was often used for dressings, as each little ball is packed full of intense lime flavour.  Really lovely it was too.

The same way as Irish people don’t go around eating Cabbage and Bacon all day, Kangaroo and the more indigenous meats don’t appear to be a regular part of the typical Aussie’s diet.  So it could be argued that Tjanabi is, in the best possible way, a kind of novelty restaurant.  Because Tjanabi offers the tasting and the small plates, you can get stuck into all the different types of indigenous meats and in one night, eat your way through the Australian outback!  It was an enjoyable experience for us and we were able to tick off a few meats from our “We have to eat this in Australia” list!

After dinner, we headed out to a gig at The Tote Hotel, which was like a hybrid of Eamon Doran’s and Whelan’s in Dublin.  More on that to come over on nialler9!

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  1. Meaty for sure but a great way to pack a taste of the outback into your trip. Brings back memories of having camel in Alice Springs, to which there is a bit of a (long) story attached!

  2. Hi Spud – camel, wow! Would like to hear that story sometime :)

  3. I try not to envy much. But so far, your Oz trip has caused me nothing but! Great photos-its almost like being there! Wallaby though? It sounds like eating teddy bears. Yum?

  4. Hey effs hope your having a good time over there! are crocodiles not protected by the law or something, and how could u eat a wallaby there so cute. This food blog has gone to your head and uve become a heartless monster! cant wait to see u wen yer back, i think i had a kangaroo burger in electric picnic or maybe it was emu, i dont know, hmmmm….. Mwah! x x x

  5. hi eefs wow how many courses did that restaurant give you? the duck looks amazing! sounds like you’re having a great time enjoy the rest of it, see you when you get back xxx

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  7. Hi Sugarpie – “wallaby is like eating teddy bears no?” Lol! My veggie friends are going to have no time for me after this post, honestly. I committed a lot of crimes in one swift meal!

    Hi Lorcs – yes, I’ve become a heartless food monster, mwah mwah in fact I’m planning to have a koala burger for lunch today. (Just kidding, everyone.)

    Hey Ciara – yeah, we ate an awful lot. It was far too much really but we did get to taste pretty much everything in the whole restaurant. I’ve come back to Dublin approximately 859 pounds heavier. Totally worth it though :)

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  9. sure plenty of time to work it off in boring dublin now! saw nialler on the street the other night, I was on the phone though, very random! glad you enjoyed it anyway :-)

  10. Hey Ciara, he told me actually! Sorry we didn’t meet on Saturday, we were squiffy after the Bernard Shaw carboot sale :)