Here’s the thing: I don’t love Vegemite.
I mean, if I’m making some avocado toast at home, I’m okay with a couple of light swipes on the bread in lieu of salt. And the way Khanh Nguyen – chef-owner of new-wave Melbourne Australasian restaurant Sunda – deploys Vegemite in one of his curries? Clever. But generally speaking, my relationship with Australia’s most infamous breakfast spread is best described as platonic.
In my defence, “cheese and Vegemite” is something of an undersell. The Vegemite component, for starters, is less whole globules of brewer’s yeast and spice, and more salted caramel that’s been spiked with some of Australia’s finest and B-vitamin-iest. And when Dumbo gelato-maker Stevie Gale says cheese, she’s not talking about Kraft Singles, Coon Tasty or anything else one might reach for when making a Vegemite and cheese scroll, roll or toastie (see also: tiger toast). She means mascarpone and cream cheese, two of the dairy world’s more dessert-appropriate cheeses. Combine said cheeses with aforementioned salted caramel and you’ve got a gloriously lush, swirly mess that coolly fuses Italian and Australian food traditions. God help us if anyone ever figures out how to turn this into something we can spread on toast.
While you can get your hit in a cup or cone, the power move is to order it in “pie” form. If you thought the tequila, Campari and other spirits on the back wall were Dumbo’s most dangerous ingredients (they’re deployed in cocktail-inspired flavours such as limoncello spritz, Margarita and Negroni), think again: the sandwich press-esque piemaker is the one you have to watch out for.
Give it a minute to heat up and another minute to do its magic and it’ll entomb a single scoop of gelato in a golden brioche shell that, while crisp and buttery on the outside, remains frozen and dessert-y in the middle. I’d like to say I ate my pie in record time because I was worried about the gelato melting all over my hands, thongs and Dumbo’s white tiles, but that’d make me a dirty, melted-gelato-covered liar. I ate my pie in record time because, quite frankly, it was insanely delicious.
Maybe I do love Vegemite after all.