The new and improved cafe at Tandanya, Australia’s oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed arts centre, is back in business following a minor refit and a major menu change.

The opening – which comes after a two-year closure – coincides with Tandanya’s 30-year anniversary. Tandanya Café served conventional cafe food before closing, but the new menu is designed to complement the art, events and activities that take place in the multi-arts complex on Grenfell Street.

“We decided to close with the idea that we would concentrate on an Indigenous-inspired catering menu and reopen the cafe so that it would align with the gallery and the performing arts programming and space,” says Gemma Page, Tandanya’s general manager.

Native ingredients and wild Australian produce take centre stage on a menu by executive chef Rhiannon Mercurio (formerly of Comida, Pink Moon Saloon, Osteria Oggi). Working with Indigenous-owned and operated food companies such as Something Wild, the team is serving an Aussie twist on the Reuben (called the Rooben) with smoked kangaroo pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese on rye bread; a camel burger with 18-hour slow-cooked camel brisket, cheese and pickles on a brioche bun; and a grazing plate of buffalo mettwurst, cheddar, mixed pickles and crackers to go with an after-work drink.

Naturally, the drinks come with a native botanical twist. Tandanya is collaborating with local brewer Big Shed on a special beer with native ingredients, and with Antipodes Gin Co on a 30th birthday gin with lemon myrtle, Kakadu plum and Tasmanian pepperberry.

“The priority is to partner with Aboriginal businesses first and local [businesses] second,” Page says. Everything on the menu has been “carefully curated to make sure it aligns with Tandanya’s MO”, she adds.

The wine list includes Unico Zelo’s Pipe Dream Nero d’Avola and River Sand Fiano. (The Adelaide Hills winery has “recognition of country on every label and [is] completely across Indigenous land-management practices”, says Page.) Other local lo-fi wines include Travis Tausend’s Agori White Field Blend, and three drops from Scintilla (the Forever Young pét-nat, Nightfall rosè pinot noir and Single Vineyard shiraz).

The majority of the cafe’s staff are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and Tandanya will partner with Tauondi Aboriginal Community College in Port Adelaide for commercial cooking certificates and on-site training.

“For community mob, it’s a really safe space to come,” says Page.

The two-level cafe sits 100 people inside and out, and the welcoming space has undergone a mini refit with a new look and furniture. “We didn’t want it to be too trendy or too off-putting, we want it to feel like an extension of our space or someone’s living room if they want to stay and have a chat,” says Page. One important element the cafe has kept is Uncle Bluey Roberts’s giant mural, which will “always be there”.

The cafe is part of a revitalised Tandanya, which will celebrate its milestone anniversary with a series of events throughout the year, including the First Nations Hub (a centre for contemporary First Nations art, music and comedy) over the festival season.

“I feel quite emotional about how [well] Tandanya’s been received [in 2020] because it was a bit of a risk,” says Page. “We’re a not-for-profit and community-run organisation, it’s a big year for us.”

Tandanya Café
253 Grenfell Street, Adelaide
(08) 8224 3200

Mon to Thu 9am–6pm
Fri 9am–late
Sun 10am–5pm

Hours during Fringe (ending March 15)
Mon to Fri 9am–9pm
Sat & Sun 9am–late (around 1am)