Marko is not your typical burger joint. For starters, it’s 100% plant-based, and secondly, they have a flair for doing things just a little different but bringing loads of flavour to their dishes. Working in and around big food brands and restaurant groups for more than 15 years, Dehne Bingham saw everything the modern food scene has to offer – the good, the bad and the ugly.
So, when Melbourne’s hospitality trade ground to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic last year, Dehne was inspired to hit reset on his own food career.
“If I was to do it all again, how would I do it? That’s the 3 am thought that started Marko,” says co founder Bingham.
“It just felt like the further into the future food was going, the more it was forgetting its roots. So I rounded up a group of like-minded problem-solvers and came up with a simple idea – let’s make food that’s better. Better tasting and better for you, better for the environment and the local community, and better for the future.”
Enter Marko, a new casual diner nestled on the edge of the bustling South Melbourne Market, whose humble food philosophy harks back to generations past.
The Marko founding team comprises Bingham, plus Jen Sharpe (owner of communications agency Think HQ and Bingham’s wife), food industry veteran and marketer Paul Hyde, plus CFO Court Hass. The menu, developed with Charley Snadden-Wilson (of Embla and Etta fame) and delivered by head chef Nabin Shrestha (formerly Vegie Bar and head chef of Rumi) – both of whom are adept at making vegetables the hero – includes burgers, pitas and bowls that are set to change seasonally, depending on what ingredients are good, fresh and available nearby.
Marko’s offering is 100% plant-based, but it’s this focus is on real, honest food that its co-founders hope to be remembered for.
Working closely with local suppliers, Marko is eschewing artificial additives and preservatives in favour of fresh, in-season produce put together with a contemporary twist. Marko’s signature burger patty is made with lentils, mushrooms, beets, sunflowers and coconut, while the falafel incorporates whole green peas inside a crunchy outer. There’s a long list of sides too, like chips tossed in fresh herbs, broccolini with sunflower cream and furikake, or corn ribs topped with crispy chilli.
The corn ribs need a little more attention though. Developed with Charley, it was all part of their plan to put plants centre-stage, and what better way to do it than with spicy corn ribs. Sliced through the core, the ribs are deep fried quickly then smothered in crispy chilli oil, which elevates this dish to a whole new level.
There isn’t much you won’t love at Marko, with attention and care brought to each dish through the team in the kitchen.
“It’s about reconnecting with what we’re eating, slowing down to enjoy it, and appreciating where our food has come from – much like our grandparents would have done. We think that’s the future of food.”