For a school-aged child, few food-related occurrences are capable of generating the palpable excitement that a tuckshop lunch could – and presumably still can – generate.
It turns out that the same theory also applies to adults working in the office of, say, a magazine. Never before has a lunch I’ve eaten at my desk elicited the sense of communal excitement verging-on-delirium that mine did yesterday. The ostensible cause? An extraordinary tuckshop meat pie.
Tuckshop pie lunches, especially those consumed at an office desk, are rarely viewed as being within the purview of the extraordinary. But it’s the excitement that were once capable of garnering that the chefs Jemma Whiteman and Mike Eggert of Pinbone fame wanted to tap into for the latest project: a short-lived pop-up tuckshop in Bondi facilitated by the quintessential Australian surf brand, Mambo – an entity steeped in as much nostalgia as relishing a lunch ordered on the face of a brown paper bag.
As school-aged children, Whiteman tells GRAZIA that her mother would invariably make a devon and sauce sandwich every day and, if a tuckshop lunch were allowed, a meat pie and chocolate milk were on the cards. Eggert on the other hand would always receive a brown paper bag, money enclosed, from his mother requesting that her son receive “an orange juice, a ham and salad sandwich and an apple”, he recalls. “[But] I would always throw that bag away and order a sausage roll, a Mars bar and a chocolate milk.”
“You had Mars bars at your tuckshop?” Whiteman interjects, incredulous. “Yeah,” says Eggert, adding by way of a proviso that “you had to get your mum’s permission.”
Suffice to say, Eggert soon mastered both his mother’s signature and the art of the tuckshop lunch. The lauded cheffing pair are three months into the latest of their phenomenally popular projects: a temporary residency at the excellent Mr Liquor’s Dirty Italian Disco, a place where – thanks to the comforts of being part of the Merivale stable – they’re able to focus solely on their cooking after six years spent staging peripatetic Pinbone pop-ups throughout Sydney – an experience that Eggert likens to running a succession of not-for-profit projects. The chance then to collaborate on an extra-curricular project of this nature felt like anything but homework. “This is Mambo, so we wanted to do weird but also mad Australian stuff,” Eggert says. “[Because] it’s a tuckshop, you’re with all your friends, so we got all our friends to do stuff.”
The ethos of affordability and community attached to an old-fashioned tuckshop carries through to the modern Mambo incarnation, from the brown paper bag you place your order on to a price limit that maxes out at pocket change level. For the duration of the four day pop-up, which opens tomorrow, Deliveroo will also be taking orders exclusively in both Sydney and Melbourne. The ice pops and pastries available in the latter city as well as, of course, the brand’s singular take on merchandise (“Feed the sea chooks”, the t-shirts implore). True to an expression of the tuckshop spirit, Whiteman and Eggert have enlisted a coterie of their classmates to contribute to the blackboard menu.
Clovelly’s Wholegreen Bakery are responsible for both the envy-inducing meat pies ($6), which are enriched with the addition of a ‘Mambomite’ gravy, as they are a warrigal greens and ricotta roll ($5.50). Both are gluten-free, though you’d be none the wiser for it; the pastry on each baked good is exactly that: very good, agreeably buttery and short. The pastry chef Yu Ching Lee has been charged with sourcing the desserts: there’s a moreish finger bun ($4.50), a revelation for fans of the genre, whose coconut icing is laced with explosive pellets of finger lime, and a vanilla slice elevated with the addition of macadamia and wattleseed ($5.50). Whiteman’s devon and sauce sandwich ($5), a schoolyard staple, has been elevated considerably through the addition of a sandwich meat reimagined by LP’s Quality Meats chefs Luke Powell and Shannon Debreceny that’s anything but bland. It is, to borrow a phrase from Eggert, “not shit”. In fact, it’s quite good. “If we tried to do anything else, people would revolt,” says Eggert. “You can only ever mess up one element, so we made good devon. The rest has to be classic butter, tomato sauce and white bread.”
The team behind Paper Bird, who work in conjunction with Bourke Street Bakery, have created the quintessential tuckshop beverage offering: a pine orange juice and a chocolate milk. Pure Pops, purveyors of hand-crafted ice pops, contributed the finishing touch: a strawberry spider and sour lemon ice block, that I can only imagine would cure a hangover made unimaginable by the heat of the day or the NoBo crowds alike.
Three artists who’ve collaborated with Mambo in the past – Kentaro Yoshida, Lauren Webster and Ben Brown – were enlisted to makeover the erstwhile chicken shop’s interior in a spectacular fashion befitting the brand’s iconic imagery. Staff are young, amicable and, given the tuckshop context, impossibly good looking.
There isn’t a tuckshop arm in sight – not yet, anyway.
The Mambo Tuckshop (266 Campbell Parade, Bondi) will open from Thursday January 25 until Sunday January 28
Tile image: Nikki To/Supplied
Cover image: Supplied