Melbourne’s digital art gallery the Lume Melbourne has become a go-to destination for its vibrant, presentations of the works of European artists like Van Gogh and Monet. Its latest experience, Connection, hits much closer to home, celebrating the works of Australia’s First Nations artists. It features digital re-creations of more than 550 paintings from 110 Indigenous artists such as Yannima Tommy Watson, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Anna Pitjara, as well as an awe-inspiring gallery of original art – a first for The Lume Melbourne.
Included in these works is Mirri, a new dining space from renowned Bundjalung chef Mark Olive. Mirri is a Bundjalung word which means "to see or be seen", and it’s Olive’s way of inviting people to experience art and explore themes that often sit outside the mainstream. “To be a part of any exhibition that’s featuring Indigenous talent is so humbling,” says Olive. “We’re telling Indigenous stories through the art, the people. Not only this, what I’ve done is open people's palates to an experience at Connection where it brings all of that artwork together.”
Olive’s Feast for the Senses menu is set among the art and music of Connection and is a tribute to Australia’s Indigenous heritage that celebrates native ingredients. “This is going to be a real learning curve for a lot of people because, let’s face it, we still don’t teach this stuff in school so this is the only way we’re going to get this message across,” he says.
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We asked Olive to share the stories behind three of his favourite dishes – each of which bears a close relationship to the artistic interpretations of native flora and fauna presented in Connection.
Oysters with lemon aspen dressing
Olive’s take on a simple entree of oysters recalls thousands of years of Indigenous tradition. “Shellfish was a huge part of Indigenous culture,” he says. “You’ll see oysters everywhere around the country and around the world in middens, where Indigenous people ate and lived.” For this dish, Olive is dressing fresh oysters with a tart lemon aspen, blended with a hint of intense eucalyptus. “To subtly offset the bitterness of all that citrus, the dressing also includes a couple of teaspoons of bush honey,” he says. “It’s an ideal blend of sweet and sour.”
Seared Etty Bay barramundi with chardonnay vinegar and baby fennel<br?
Like oysters, barramundi has long been a staple food for this land’s traditional owners. “You’ll see a lot of that in cave paintings – especially around Kakadu and up north,” says Olive. “When you see the life-size versions of what they painted 20,000 years ago they were some really big varieties of barramundi.”
With this dish, he sears the barramundi before marinating it overnight in butter and lemon aspen juice, serving it with a chardonnay vinegar-infused Paris mash and succulents like ice plant and samphire.
Davidson’s plum meringue with desert lime ice-cream
Australia has a bounty of unique and delicious fruits – many of which feature in Connection’s artworks – and that’s what this dessert is all about. “It’s getting people's heads out of using strawberries, raspberries,” he says. “We have these unique Australian varieties of fruit like the quandong, riberries, lilly pillies, the Davidson’s plum, Illawarra plums, Kakadu plums – stuff we never talk about and never visit.”
With this dish, Olive is tempering the bitterness of Davidson’s plum with plenty of sweetness, mixed through and atop meringue, served with ice-cream infused with another unsung native: desert lime. “[They’re] extremely tart, extremely bitter but when you make your vanilla-bean ice-cream, stir it through and it’s like a cross between sweet and sour,” he says.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with the Lume Melbourne. The Feast for the Sense menu is available on Friday and Saturday nights, bookings are recommended.