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Makuto on Hall Street – a Menu Like No Other

By Joel Bevilacqua on May 11, 2020 in Food

The original and the best. Photo: Megan Henry

Back in 1998, fresh-faced 27 year-old Roberto Weil decided to take a surf trip to the famed Bondi Beach. Like many in his home country of Venezuela, he was infatuated by the Australian surfing lifestyle. Aussie culture permeated Venezuela during the ‘90s, much like American culture still pervades our own, and it was not uncommon to see people roaming the streets in INXS and AC/DC merchandise.
Roberto’s trip was also somewhat of a cover; he was applying for an Australian visa and needed to get a stamp in his passport. There was political unrest in Venezuela and Roberto had seen the writing on the wall. It was time to get out, but first he needed a sign.
Roberto was sitting on the Bondi Pavillion steps one morning, watching the waves roll in with his then partner, when a man sat down beside them. The man pulled off a pair of brand new sneakers, placed them down on a step, and jogged off along the soft sand towards the south end. Doing such a thing in Venezuala at the time was unthinkable, unless you were trying to donate your new kicks to the first person who spotted them. For Roberto, the act was so significant that he turned to his partner and declared, “If that man’s shoes are still there when he gets back, I’m moving here forever.”
And, as they say, the rest is history. Roberto moved to Australia a year later and, over twenty years on, he still calls the Eastern Beaches home. In 2005 Roberto bought Jed’s Foodstore, the much-loved icon of Warners Avenue that closed its doors back in 2016.
Fast forward another four years and Roberto and great mate Alon have opened Makuto on Hall Street, a Venezuelan-style eatery that does breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Two decades in the making, Makuto is Eastern Beaches through and through – but without trying to be. Makuto eschews the usual breakfast template, replacing the common eggs and bacon with Venezuelan montados like scrambled eggs with morcilla (black sausage) and green salsa, and breakfast arepas filled with chorizo and miso mushrooms. Reggae music and a wooden-themed interior make for a rare, authentic and laid-back vibe.
I visited on a beautiful sunny day in March, albeit at a time when the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to sink in. I was seated at a large wooden table, 1.5 metres from the affable local editor of Tracks Magazine, Luke Kennedy. It turned out that Makuto had already become Luke’s local, and my breakfast ‘Chochoyotes’ – a mouth-watering mix of masa gnocchi, sofito isleno, hominy hummus and poached eggs – came recommended by the famed surf scribe himself.
Roberto, Luke and I sat together, drinking from glasses of Makuto’s house-fermented pineapple guarapo (kombucha), just one of the refreshing brunch beverages on a list that includes virgin cocktails and fresh pressed juices. Roberto filled me in on his story and that of Makuto while some colourful reggae beats played in the background. I was temporarily silenced by my breakfast, which I scooped up with freshly toasted Iggy’s bread.
Arepas – Venezuela’s staple white maize pockets of various fillings – make up the lunch and dinner menu. Mr Kennedy had ordered two servings of his favourite, the ‘Santa La Diabla’, which came packed with pork and mango curtido. Other fillings inlcude lamb curry, buttermilk chicken, eggplant and steak and halloumi, to name a few. All come served with wasakaka, arepa’s mother sauce. As for now, these are all available for take-away (as well as the breakfast menu and quality coffee from Seven Miles Coffee Roasters), but when the doors reopen diners will have the opportunity to try some of the many craft beers and natural wines on offer as well.
“The beauty of this place is that it’s stuff that you can’t make yourself, and can’t get anywhere else,” Mr Kennedy said. And he’s dead right, Makuto offer a menu like no other. It’s a welcome deviation from the norm, bursting with Caribbean combinations and flavours.
From there, the conversation naturally migrated into less jovial territory. The football had just been cancelled and at the time it seemed like the end of the world. Things were to get worse, especially for owners of establishments that rely on people being able to leave their homes and congregate. As we come out of this crisis, it is people like Roberto and his legendary business partner Alon who we should be supporting the most.