Mabu Mabu Big Esso


Big Esso is an all-day bar and kitchen located at Federation Square on the land of the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung peoples. It is the first formal dining venue by Mabu Mabu led by chef Nornie Bero. 'Big Esso' is an expression in the Torres Strait. It’s a slang term that means ‘the biggest thank you.’ When combined, ‘Mabu Mabu & Big Esso’ is what you would say before kicking-off a celebration.

The project was developed through close collaboration with Mabu Mabu, working from an existing restaurant that was carefully adapted into a new venue. The design took inspiration from the open breezy atmosphere of pubs in Australia’s far north. The design uses permeable and porous surfaces, including bamboo rattan which lines the walls, banquette seating and overbar elements. The palette of colours attempts capture the freshness of tropical landscapes, while white metalwork elements are reminiscent of the intricate lacework of vernacular architecture in the top end. The design is grounded in its location with Victorian hardwoods used on the counter, shelving, tables and other touch points.

The hero of Big Esso is its artwork, in particular an in-situ mural along the dining area commissioned by Mabu Mabu and painted by emerging indigenous artist Aretha Brown.