Being a food blogger is a harder life than it may seem (hashtag #FirstWorldProblems). We are constantly saturating our senses with the newest trendy openings and food fads; and scramble to keep up with our ever morphing wish list. The aftermath of which is, there are always places that we wish we had been sooner, but had not the chance. For me Attica most certainly was one of those stars in the night sky that had been forgotten. Looking back, Attica has been on my wish list pre dating my blog, and yet I had only set foot through its doors July this year.
It is no longer an easy feat snaring a table at Ben Shewry’s brainchild even before earning itself recognition amongst the world’s best (San pellegrino’s world rank 21), alongside the likes of L’atelier and Le Bernadin. It is no surprise that it has this year received all round applauses locally from The Age good food guide awards for: Restaurant of the year 2014, Chef of the year 2014, and 3 hats. The skyrocket to fame has meant as of early 2013, they would be virtually fully booked for most of the year, aside the occasional odd table vacancy – which I happily snapped up two weeks before my birthday! Go me!
Needing to drive back up to Bendigo to work the very next morning, I was woefully obliged due to time constraints to go with the smaller 5 course tasting menu with wine matching (menu as of July 2013).
Olive emulsion // butter // wattle seed rye
Crème fraiche, with mustard leaves
Walnut in its shell
Port Phillip mussel
The contrast created between the flash fried mussels with a touch of salt and citrus, to the light fragrance of walnut and pine mushroom, finally to the acidity of apple cider, mustard and celery seed pickled cauliflower did marvels to awaken the senses. Needless to say, I could not get enough of the creamy yellow butter and beautiful wattle seed rye – servings x4… no shame.
Crab, lettuce from land and sea.
Brundlmayer ‘Berg Vogelsang’ Gruner Veltliner 2002 – Kamptal, Austria
Our first course began with baby snow crab. The pearly white flesh sitting on a frond of youthfully luscious baby cos was light, fragrant and unctuous, with the slightest lick of coconut and vinegar. Added with small sips of nectarine sweetness from the Austrian wine, course one painted an amazing palate of the sea.
A Simple Dish of Potato cooked in the earth it was was grown
Damijan Podversic ‘Kaplja’ 2006 – Friuli, Italy
Drawing on Maori Hangi cuisine, Ben Shewry in this dish through hours of steaming in the earth, transforms ordinary Virginia rose potatoes to create a strange, almost alien texture that is smooth, velvety and creamy-rich. The humble potato is embellished with an earthy mix of coconut ash, ground coffee, shards of saltbush atop smoked goat’s curd that adds a musky nose to the dish.
King George Whiting in paperbark.
Chateau Simone Blanc 2010 – Palette, France
Wrapped in paperbark before cooking it over charcoal, imparted an elegant smoky trace to the succulent Port Arlington whiting. Carefully dressed with minced scallop and drizzled with lemon grass juice, the flirting marriage of earthy flavours and tang leaves one swooning for more alongside the buttery, mineral wine.
Flinders Island Wallaby, Scorched Macadamia, Ground Berry
Yarra Yarra Syrah / Viognier 2006 – Yarra Valley, Victoria
Seared to a red-pink, the rawness of this dish might be a little scary to those naïve to wallaby meat, but for me it straddles that perfect point just short of blue leaving the meat slightly gamey but incredibly tender and sumptuous. It is punctuated with the crunch of blackened macadamia, ground berries, and rounded off with the richness of black pudding.
A blend of white grape variety with Victorian syrah adds a crucial acidity to temper the rich intensity from the dish.
At this point we are ushered from our table on a tour of the small garden (showcasing some of the fresh produce that is grown at a bigger block nearby), where we were treated to a warm pink lady & granny smith drink, and freeze dried coconut on marshmallow to toast on an open fire.
Fresh Curd Ice Cream and preserved Blueberries.
Dominique Portet Vendanges Tardives Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – Yarra Valley, Victoria
One might argue that I am nit-picking at fine details, but this dish is probably my least inspiring dish of the night. Whilst it brings forth a refreshing blend of frozen blueberries, pink lady curd and chrysanthemum petals, I feel it doesn’t reach the same dizzying benchmark set by its preceding dishes.
The floral notes of lychee and pineapple offered by the late harvest wine were a great tickle on the palate.
[course five, alternate dessert]
Plight of bees.
At the time of dining, this was only available on the 8 course menu, much to my dismay. The staff at Attica were incredibly accommodating however, allowing me to alternate the designated dessert with the famed Plight of Bees. (P.S. don’t all go trying to change the dessert, otherwise I’m going to get into trouble!)
This complex beautifully rendered dessert, served in a Tasmanian oak box, is created using two totally different New Zealand honeys (honeydew and wild thyme) as a central part of the dessert’s mortar – a creamy, eggy curd that brings together the savoury-sweetness of pressed pumpkin, the acidity of fennel seed granita and mandarin wedges, and finally the crunch from shards of broken meringue. Freeze dried apple dust is carefully sprinkled on top to create the illusion of a honeycomb. It is an absolute charmer, impeccably executed with exact balance and refreshing energy.
[course six, complimentary dessert]
Melted chocolate dessert.
Having disclosed that it would be a birthday celebration, a complimentary dessert course of melted chocolate was brought out. Akin to a gooey dark chocolate brownie, it was hot, dark and wickedly indulgent. Freeze dried berries to give one the illusion it is slightly better for your health.
And [to finish] the night, we were presented with Pukeko’s egg - a little sweet caramel delight. “So as diners, we walk out with a taste of where it all began, in the form of a Pukeko’s egg, from Ben Shewry’s home…” (Bryan)
Rating: Divine. One of the best dining experiences in Melbourne, full stop. It is indulgent yet pared back, elegant yet unpretentious. It is a thoroughly memorable experience created by Ben Shewry that takes your palate on a culinary journey through the glistening waves of the ocean, the sun baked grass fields of the outback, to the lush nectars of his home country; all polished with impeccably warm service. In my books, Attica is undoubtedly deserving of its accolades.
Where: 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea
Contact: 03 9530 0111
Closed: Sunday & Monday.
*due to demand, bookings no longer taken more than 3 months in advance. If you can’t get a booking, you can leave your name on a waitlist, and if you’re lucky you might get a call soon offering you a table.