Attica | Melbourne

In 2013, I visited Attica, then the #21 best restaurant in the world on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best List. And  I was not impressed – Ben Shewry’s food wasn’t my idea of world-class. Certainly – the polished service, the attention to detail and the use of native Australian flora and fauna were all most exemplary and worthy of recognition. However, the food just wasn’t all that…tasty. My palate is my palate, after all – as such, while I appreciated it, I didn’t like it anywhere near what I thought I would.

But short of a disaster, I’m all about second chances – there’s no way true restaurant reviewers would score a venue based off just one visit, and if I’m going to make a judgement call on Attica, I ought to take a page out of their books. A second visit, three years later, was in – colour me seriously impressed.

Date Last Visited: 07/07/2016 27/11/13
Address: 74 Glen Eira Rd Ripponlea, VIC 3185

Attica – 2016 Visit

Unlike how I usually write, I will try to be succinct with my 2016 visit recap. I didn’t expect I would actually update this post (it’s rare I do this). However, this visit surpassed my expectations to such a degree, I can’t help but feel almost obligated to post a recount. As such, I didn’t take tasting notes on the night – sometimes, I just want to enjoy the experience without having to note down every subtlety, every nuance. As such, I won’t be talking the dishes to exhaustion – you’ll just have to take any nonspecific, sweeping descriptions for granted.

 

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

3 years, and so little has changed in the dark, moody decor. I love it.

Honestly, while I could easily write another 3000 words on this visit, I feel like I don’t have to, because the fact of the matter is, despite Attica having slipped in the World’s 50 Best ranking to #33 in 2016, it is, to me, a superlative experience compared to my 2013 visit.

In fact, don’t even bother reading the words and just look at the pictures. Better yet, make a booking as soon as possible. This is one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Australia, and is one to remember for a lifetime. Damage: $230 for food, $150 for the (cheapest) wine pairing. Yes, I got the wine pairing, and for the most part, it paired with the food very well.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Cook’s leaves, served with a sweet vinegar & sour cream dip

If you’ve read up on my 2013 experience (just do a “wee bit” of scrolling), you’ll know that the restaurant premises feature a small veg & herb garden in the backyard. That garden itself is essentially a miniature of Attica’s primary garden in Ripponlea, a ~400sqm block only a few minutes away. The produce of the garden makes its presence immediately known right from the first course – four different types of leaf, served with a sweet vinegar & sour cream dip.

Yep, it’s that simple. Take one, and lap up as much of that creamy, sweet/sour dip as possible. It’s an austere, but at the same time, very rich way to start. A beautiful few bites that sets you up for more.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Sweet & sour santa claus melons

The snacks continue (don’t hold your breath – there’s twelve of them) with a piece of sweet & sour santa claus melon. Otherwise known as Christmas melons, they are quite sweet, and have a somewhat cantaloupe/honeydew-like texture. These were dusted with what I think was a raspberry powder, which took the sweetness back just the right amount, almost like a mini palate cleanser for the first course of “salad”. Again, really simple and delicious.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Goolwa pippies in seaweed butter

Things get a bit more cooked with Goolwa pippies in seaweed butter. These were one of my favourite snacks. I questioned the fact that they were served warm and not hot, but all doubts were erased from my mind when I discovered just how flavoursome these were. It’s almost as if the absence of heat allowed the full juiciness of the pippies and umami of that butter to come through.

Oh mah gawd. So good – and at only two each? Ben, you’re killing me.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Smashed avo on toast

I love Melbourne for many reasons, but one of them is surely the embodiment of the great Australian tradition in making fun of things. Such is the case with the smashed avo on toast. We’ve all seen the articles lambasting the trend of hipster cafes charging exorbitant prices for some green stuff on a piece of bread, so why not parody it? Here’s some beautifully-cut avocado, with tangy clumps of finger lime and first-sprout mint on a piece of crispbread. There was other stuff as well, but again – just enjoy it because it’s delicious. Avo on toast – on steroids, as it were. I’d be happy waking up to this on the daily!

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Fresh cheese & honeycomb

Next up, simply titled fresh cheese & honeycomb, it is anything but. Naturally, in Shewry style, the cow’s milk cheese is made in-house, and the honeycomb is scraped and plated up at our table. It’s a great act of presentation in exemplifying the restaurant’s ethos.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

The plated product

By itself, the cheese is actually rather bland, overly tart, and just not all that pleasant to eat. But add the honey, and it’s like a house that just underwent a season of The Block. Deliciously sweet, creamy, rich tones of honey underlined by the fullness of that cheese. It’s surprising just how much adding the honeycomb changes things – I encourage you to try both elements separately (just a little bit!) at first, and then together. Be surprised, be wowed.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Smoked pork

Up next, simply amazingly tasty smoked pork. This would belong just as well at the best churrasca joint, and in all honesty, exceeds them. Sweet, mustard flavours dominate, and the succulence of the pork is something I can still taste to this day.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Wallaby blood pikelets

One dish that has remained from 2013 are wallaby pikelets. Essentially a mini blini made of flour and wallaby “juice” (*cough* – it’s blood), the overall taste is earthy, sweet, and texturally very light and airy – helped along by sour plum jam & vinegar cream. A very quick morsel, but one that punches above its size.

I was also provided a written “recipe” for this dish, and if you ever visit Attica and get the same treatment, you’ll see what I meant with the quotation marks. Our (hilarious) secret 😉

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Gazza’s Vegemite pie

Gazza’s Vegemite pie, or as my friends called it, a “lamb t***”. Uh, yeah, I guess it doesn’t look like the most attractive thing in the world, but of course, you know where this is going – its taste is inversely proportional to its looks. Rich, creamy umami dominates (in no small part due to the Vegemite and cheese on top) but I was still able to taste the gaminess of the lamb. A luscious bite.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Lance Wiffin’s mussel

My favourite appetiser of them all, and actually the favourite from my 2013 visit, Lance Wiffin’s mussels continue to make an appearance. Lance is a small-scale mussel farmer with which Attica has a direct relationship – his portrait is what’s on the shell.

These are my favourite, because they’re probably the best deep fried mussels you’ll have. These are shucked on-site and flash-fried for exactly 35 seconds to achieve a perfect balance of crispness and juiciness. Topped with a sea succulent to finish off, they were a game-changer for me back then, and continue to be now. Yum!

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Beef on the Bone

A more rustic appetiser is beef on the bone – literally a bone skewering a piece of the stuff. Beefy and succulent, full of sweetness and almost a soy-like overtone.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Aromatic Ripponlea broth

The last appetiser is Attica’s aromatic Ripponlea broth. It’s a base of chicken stock topped with 14(!!) herbs & flowers from the Ripponlea garden. I’m not even going to try and name even a few, however mint and liquorice plants definitely made their presence known on my palate. The chicken broth itself is lukewarm, which is not my preference, however that is a small quibble – I lapped this up like everything else.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Oh yeah: house-churned butter and deep-fried saltbush w/sour cream.

Don’t worry, the staff haven’t forgotten about bread. While I forgot to take a picture of the bread itself, I can tell you it was a wattleseed bread, and served with house-churned butter, and deep-fried saltbush w/sour cream.

We all ate a piece, and immediately accepted a second. The biggest mistake? Not going for thirds. That bread, butter, and salty saltbush made for a killer combination.

With this, we move onto the “mains” – yet I felt like we’ve already gone through a mini-degustation!

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Salted red kangaroo & bunya bunya

The first main is salted red kangaroo w/bunya puree. The kangaroo is hidden beneath all the purple carrot, but it’s certainly there, and it’s essentially served as a tartare, cooked only ever so lightly before serving. The buttery nuttiness of bunya (first experienced at Noma) was an absolutely dandy accompaniment to the kangaroo, and there was no gaminess at all. The carrots provided a heap of crunch, and overall, the dish had a sweet-sour profile.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Plating something DELICIOUS

Next up, all parts of the pumpkin. I get really excited at these kinds of dishes – as it’s always amazing to see what chefs can do with “all parts” of something. How about trying that with pumpkin?

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

All parts of the pumpkin

Pumpkin cream that is produced through chemistry lab-grade “flavour concentrators”, 12-hour slow-cooked pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and a “pumpkin distillation” is a who’s who of this dish. It essentially replaces Attica’s previous signature – potato cooked in the earth – and dare I say it I like this far, far more. It’s sweet, it’s creamy, it’s nutty, it’s every expression of a pumpkin’s flavours.

I haven’t been this impressed with anything pumpkin-related since Bennelong. It’s good to see some competition 😉

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Marron, lilly pilly & pearl

Marron is a classic Australian crustacean, and thus its presence on Attica’s menu is all but expected. While served with the shell for presentation’s sake (definitely made an impact), the goods are all in the flesh itself. But honestly, I don’t need to describe marron again, do I? It is our nation’s lobster and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t compete with the best of the rest. I particularly liked that it was served with sour muntries, which is one helluva fancy way to impart that classic “wedge of lemon” vibe, but in an oh-so Australian manner.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Emu’s egg

One of the most striking dishes on the menu in being served on top of a bowl of flax, the emu’s egg actually contains no emu. On the left side are a few chunks of diced smoked potato, the right, scrambled egg with muntries, and emu “floss”. Let’s just call it essence of emu and not think too much more of it. I’ve had emu meat before, but don’t expect it to be all that different to other gamey bird meats. Thus, any essence was even harder to detect in this dish – but there was definitely something. Regardless of what I tasted that night, this is a delicious dish all the same – the potatoes are chewy, starchy while the eggs are gooey, perfectly-cooked and the muntries adding that well-placed zing.

This was a great way to segue into the next act of the meal – the garden tour!

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Garden tour – tulips

I didn’t bother taking any photos of the garden apart from the above, as my lens wasn’t appropriate, and you can view additional photos from the 2013 visit anyway. Suffice it to say, I love this part of the experience, as not only does it give us a chance to get up and stretch our legs, but also to partake in just a little extra bit of Attica’s food philosophy. All in all, it was around 10 minutes or so of exposition and show & tell, we were served hot billy tea (yum!), and an arrowroot biscuit. Nothing special, but the experience of it was.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Cuppa tea & bikkies in the garden

Extra cool was being able to cut out a tulip, to be used for the first of several desserts…

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Tulips DIY

Tulips DIY. This is essentially a “tulip sandwich” – tulip petals (yep, they’re edible!) filled with fermented rhubarb and lemon myrtle cream.

On my previous visit, I was sorely disappointed with the desserts, and I’m glad to say that now, it’s a completely new experience. These little sweet sangas pack quite the bite – chilly, refreshingly sweet and sour. If there was one downside, it’s that the “sauce” at the bottom was far too sour for my liking. Don’t taste this separately.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Byron sunrise & fresh coconut cream

The second last dessert is three curious cones of granny smith apple with fresh coconut cream & Byron sunrise finger lime within. As you can see, the apple is ultra thinly-sliced, and you can either eat the whole pyramid in one bite, or playfully unspool it to reveal the red finger limes and cream within. Try doing both – it’ll be tasty either way with the crunchy, sweet-sour granny smith, the tart finger limes (cheerfully remarked to us as “lime caviar”), and fresh coconut cream.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Chocolate cake & PBJ ice cream

Our last dessert is a decadent chocolate cake and a PBJ ice cream. Uhh, I’ll be honest – I didn’t actually see any other table receive this dessert, so…awesome!? And another thing, I only remember just how jammy that ice cream was. Whoops! Sorry readers – I was in quite the food coma at this point, that’s for sure. But that cake? So spongy, chocolatey and yes – delicious. I am however glad we shared.

Attica Restaurant Melbourne

Attica Cheftales

The petit fours for the menu is a jovial take on the Fantales lolly, except these wrappers have a short biography of a chef on each one. I managed to correctly guess 2 out of 4 – see how you go! As for taste, just think of the best Fantales you’ve ever had – which should be every one of them thanks to the manufacturing process…sorry for being facetious 😛

But seriously, a super sweet piece of salted caramel fudge whose memory won’t leave you for some time.

Oh. Look at what I did – another 2000 words when I thought I wouldn’t be writing much. TL;DR version – get your ass to this restaurant ASAP.

The Good:

  • When was the last time you had a degustation where pretty much everything was delicious? For me, Attica’s back, baby!
  • The only true “Modern Australian” restaurant expresses itself beautifully

The Bad:

  • You’ll still need an open mind to fully enjoy everything
  • On a whole, the service was lovely, but with so many different waiters serving you, things get a bit disjointed at times

The Ugly:

  • While everything was exceptionally tasty, I can’t help but wonder if any dishes will be memorable three years down the track – time will tell.

I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.

Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.

F8 | S4 | A3
8.5/10 Caesars

Attica – 2013 Visit

Let me first start off with HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2013 was one hell of a year, but I can already smell 2014 for what it’s going to be: incredible, that’s what.

I do apologise to my readers on the dearth of posts in the last 5 weeks. As previously informed on the home page, I’ve been in a graduation trip to Europe for 45 days! Yes, I have also become a graduate this year! As can be imagined, I didn’t blog because I really shouldn’t be inside a hotel typing away when I’m meant to be out absorbing all the sights of Europe. At least I tried to keep you guys updated with Instagram (Y).

But now I’m back, and I’m still going to present you guys with a big one: Attica Melbourne, a restaurant that is number 21 on the World’s Top 50 and is considered now to be the best restaurant in Australia (sorry Quay).

The name behind Attica is Ben Shewry, whose principle is to produce food that doesn’t just taste good, but provokes the soul. Sounds kind of cheesy, but that’s the spirit behind it, and Attica is the realisation of such a method. He draws ingredients and inspirations from local sources, but has received training from top chefs all over the world. But of course, right?

Date Last Visited: 27/11/13
Address: 74 Glen Eira Rd Ripponlea, VIC 3185

In 2013, Attica made it to the World’s Top 50 list at #21, while Quay, in the same year dropped to #49. Indeed, in the view of the world’s food critics, Attica has become Australia’s best restaurant. Melbourne strikes back. Or does it? That’s what I had to find out, when I visited Melbourne for a second time in November 2013.

I made the booking for 4 people months earlier (a table was lucky to be had), and off we drove to Ripponlea. It’s not in the CBD – you will have to trek a bit but we had a rental car. Masterchef-obsessed fans will already have been introduced of Shewry’s fame through his appearance in the dessert finale of the 2013 season of Masterchef Australia. In this challenge, contestants had to recreate “The Plight of the Bees“. I won’t describe the details here – just read that link, and appreciate. Unfortunately, this insanely difficult dessert was taken off the menu mere weeks before we got to dine at the restaurant. Ooft.

Attica restaurant interior

Attica’s restaurant interior. It’s not much bigger than this. Cozy!

The restaurant itself is quite small, probably seating no more than 40 or so people. For those who wonder why fine dining is so expensive (aside from the quality of the food) – it’s because of the low table turnover and limited seating.

Attica restaurant bar area

The bar area

For the most part, the restaurant employs black as its primary shade. Naturally, the white tablecloths will stand out. I like the look – very understated, but refined.

Ok, I’ve introduced this restaurant with enough words: best in Australia, 21st in the World, high expectations. The menu price: $180 + $55 for a juice pairing. Yes, it’s like the pairing at Momofuku Seiobo. And no, there is no option for a la carte.

Jersey house churned butter & whipped olive oil w/black sea salt Attica

Jersey house churned butter & whipped olive oil w/black sea salt

The Jersey house churned butter is worth mentioning. It’s as you would expect of artisan butter – a really rich and full flavour with  very creamy, but thick texture. It’s the only condiment you’ll need on your bread, so to speak. If you want something more daring, do go for the olive oil – it’s slightly smoky and very creamy. The black sea salt makes you crave yet another knife-spread!

Oh and no, you can’t eat those walnut-like balls. But do feel free to troll your friends into thinking you can 😛

Fermented cottage cheese in house cultured crème fraîche, alpine pepper & lemon myrtle dip paired w/mustard leaves & pickled honey cauliflowers Attica

Fermented cottage cheese in house cultured crème fraîche, alpine pepper & lemon myrtle dip paired w/mustard leaves & pickled honey cauliflowers

Amuse bouche comes in the form of Fermented cottage cheese in house cultured crème fraîche, alpine pepper & lemon myrtle dip paired w/mustard leaves & pickled honey cauliflowers. The mustard leaves constituted the mandatory “unusual element” of the dish. They’re just leaves on stalks! But yes, you eat the whole thing dipped in the yellow stuff (that’s the oil/cheese) and it’s awesome. A creamy salty taste with the slight crunch of the leaves and its stalk, which also brings it its own slight fresh tang. It was strangely satisfying for what it was – I would definitely eat it again.

The pickled cauliflowers were less impressive, in that their taste was a bit too pungent and sour for my liking. The rest of the table agreed. I ended dipping it in the butter 😛 Being Attica, that wasn’t the end of the amuse bouche.

Black Pudding Pikelets, Foam and Flowers Attica

Wallaby Black Pudding Pikelets, Foam and Flowers

The Wallaby Black Pudding Pikelets, Foam and Flowers makes for round 2 of amuse…ment. It was really quite moreish. The black pudding, made from wallaby blood itself is somehow really light, airy and fluffy. It was likely aerated to some extent? This particular texture works quite well with the buckwheat base, as it brings the crunch to an otherwise very soft dish.  Quite nice! In retrospect, I was a little surprised that we were given this amuse, as most other blog posts do not have this course, instead being provided with a walnut puree. No regrets!

We’re not done yet.

Bblue mussels from Port Philip Bay, deep fried in potato rice starch Attica

Bblue mussels from Port Philip Bay, deep fried in potato rice starch w/sea succulents

A third amuse bouche, in the form of blue mussels from Port Philip Bay, deep fried in potato rice starch makes a delicious, delicious entrance. This was an awesome morsel. The deep fried crusty batter is perfectly salted and starchy, making for a delectable complement to the buttery soft mussel within.

blue mussels from Port Philip Bay, deep fried in potato rice starch Attica

Another look, with the rather freaky mussel shell

You may be wondering about the face that is painted on the shell of the mussel. This is done by New Zealand artist Claire du Bosky. The face is of the “mussel man”, Lance Wiffen from Portarlington – considered to be Australia’s capital of mussels. Shewry pays homage like this more than once during the meal. It’s a very personal touch, and is definitely much appreciated, albeit a bit freaky in the picture 😛

I wish I could have had more than one of these. So good! For The Lady, this was the dish that she remembered the most. Can’t get past a good deep fry.

Snow crab, mandarin & sorrel Attica

Snow crab, mandarin & sorrel

For dish #1, the presentation is most definitely understated. What could it be? Definitely a question to be asked if you didn’t know what was coming already. It is the snow crab, mandarin & sorrel. You definitely see the sorrel, but what of the rest? Let’s unfurl.

Snow crab, mandarin & sorrel Attica

Ah, so that’s what it is on the inside

The crab meat it served somewhat shredded to allow for a greater surface area of flavour infusion. All in all, it’s a great way to cook snow crab flesh – tender, juicy and helped out by a tangy and delectable mandarin gel.  Sure, you could say that my interest is most definitely piqued for the dishes to follow.

Marron & ground greens Attica

Marron & ground greens

The second dish is in the form of marron, accompanied by a side of ground greens which consists of ground kale, tarragon and chicken. The sauce is made out of onion and pork fat, so you know where this is going. I had a feeling that the ground greens would be extremely salty relative to the rest of the dish, and this was confirmed upon first tastes. You really have to eat this with the marron, else your taste buds will be overloaded. This is all well and good, except that a  problem arises in that the greens will overwhelm the marron as well. I wasn’t too fond of that.

Flavour balance aside, the marron is texturally perfect (and the ground greens a very fine texture which I liked also!). I cannot get over just how much I love seafood that’s texturally done right.

Overall, I think if I had just a little bit of the ground greens and balance it against the marron with the pig fat sauce, it would work out. As it stands, I felt like I could have used some rice! Such was the saltiness.

While this dish wasn’t totally to palate, it was ameliorated somewhat by the first juice pairing of the meal.

Cold smoked apple juice Attica

Cold smoked apple juice

A light and refreshing cold smoked apple juice goes well with the saltiness of the marron dish, taking away much of its impact. It’s not much to look at, but it gets the job done.

A simple dish of potatoes cooked in the earth it was grown Attica

A simple dish of potatoes cooked in the earth it was grown – virginia rose potato, smoked Woodside goats curd, burnt coconut husk, salt bush cooked in the earth

An earthy delight, the potato cooked in the earth is anything but simple. The potato, compacted in earth and presumably steamed/sous vide in some way is itself already well seasoned and tastes like a wondrous mash, while the dairy tang from the curd and sharp wild saltiness of the saltbush complement the dish all around.

Even non potato lovers are likely to enjoy this dish. For someone who’s already into potatoes…well this was just fantastic. It is a signature dish at Attica, and one can easily see why.

This is a very Australian way to cook, and further reinforces Shewry’s ties to native Australian methods of cooking. Brilliant.

Cucumbers, holy flax, sauce of burnet Attica

Cucumbers, holy flax, sauce of burnet

A wholly vegetarian dish, the cucumber is cooked in charred cucumber oil (was there such a thing?), cheddar beurre noisette (burnt butter) and rosemary. It was quite a surprisingly powerful dish, as I had my doubts about a fully vegetarian dish.

I generally like to eat cucumbers raw or pickled, so this method of cooking in butter was something novel for me. The cucumber itself kept its texture, with a bit of a pickled taste coming out of it (it has been pickled in verjus). Seasoning came from the sauce, especially the Tasmanian cheese component within. Despite the heaviness of the sauce, the overall dish was very refreshing to eat.

It was paired with a tomato juice which was like a lighter-tasting V8 juice, but a fair bit more edgy. Great for washing down all that buttery goodness.

King George Whiting in paperbark Attica

King George Whiting in paperbark

I have seen this kind of presentation before, notably with Japanese miso cod in shiso leaf so I was eagerly anticipating the Port Arlington King George Whiting. The method of cooking in paperbark has been pioneered by Aboriginals since ancient times – cooked over coals, the whiting is imbued with smokiness, buttery & lemony aromas. Even the bones are edible.

It’s freaking delicious. Could it be anything else?

Port arlington king george whiting Attica

The deliciousness within

One point of criticism: watch the bark, if you accidentally scrape, and subsequently eat that, it will be ultra bitter and will ruin it. Unfortunately, you have to take care yourself, as it isn’t really possible to keep the bark fully separate from the fish – don’t scrape too hard! I learned that the hard way.

This dish is paired with an orange tomato juice that was quite sweet. For me, it didn’t enhance or detract from the whiting. Good enough on its own.

Red Kangaroo w/herbs tended by the hands of our cooks Attica

“Red Kangaroo w/herbs tended by the hands of our cooks”

Shewry continues his daring use of Australian ingredients with the main course of Red Kangaroo w/hot & sour quangdongs, honeydew honey & edible herbs from the garden. To put it simply, this is the best kangaroo I’ve tasted in my life. For such a gamey meat, it was amazingly tender – if I wasn’t told I could be led to believe that it’s rare steak. Deliciousness abounds.

Quangdongs seem to be a buzzword for Australian fruits – they are indeed quite sour, but also really sweet. Somehow I didn’t mind them with the kangaroo. Whatever magic is going on here just works for me.

The juice pairing for this one is beetroot. You saw that one coming didn’t you! A classic combination.

Red kangaroo w/herbs tended by the hands of our cooks Attica

Another picture…because.

One thing I didn’t like about this dish were the edible herbs in the background. I didn’t really know any of them, and while I realised that they were all very unique and unusual, it didn’t take away the fact that many tasted very…unusual. Sharp or pungent or bitter, they just didn’t taste so good. The sauce fixes that somewhat, but I feel that they were there more for cosmetic purposes. The table agreed.

Speaking of those herbs, what did they mean when they say “tended by the hands of our cooks”? Welcome to the Attica garden tour.

The Attica herb garden - lemon, holy flax, boxwood and so many more

The Attica herb garden – lemon, holy flax, boxwood and so many more

Yes, before the main is served, guests are taken to the back of the restaurant where staff literally tend to a herb garden. Most of the herbs and veggies you see in the meal come from here. It’s a very unique experience that’s unique to the way Attica does things – intimately Australian, down to earth, and providing that special experience that connects the earth to the plate. Many of the herbs are not easily acquired, and thus are grown themselves. Shewry has also said that Attica has an off-site farm about 20 minutes away for sourcing greater quantities of vegetables and herbs – all commercially difficult to find.

Attica garden tour

Our guide (who’s from England!) talking the talk, explaining what the whole shindig’s about

It was indeed a very novel experience, much appreciated.

Raspberry licorice w/raspberry powder & chocolate ganache Attica

Raspberry licorice w/raspberry powder & chocolate ganache

But no, it wasn’t just a visual feast. The garden tour is also how our pre-dessert is served – with a raspberry licorice w/chocolate ganache, coated in raspberry powder. Our guide prepped it in front of our eyes giving visibility to the process. Good stuff.

raspberry licorice w/raspberry powder & chocolate ganache attica

A close up of the pre-dessert

It tasted like a pre-dessert should: refreshing, palate cleansing, but also richer than usual thanks to the ganache.

Now, back to the kitchen, and onto the desserts.

Blueberries, vinegar & fresh cheese Attica

Blueberries, vinegar & fresh cheese

Our first dessert is simply called Blueberries, vinegar & fresh cheese. Dehydrated blueberries take the centre staged, steeped in tart apple vinegar and sheep’s milk yoghurt. It’s made all the prettier with chrysanthemum leaves. It’s a brilliant dessert, combining the deliciousness sweetness of blueberries with a creamier infusion of cheese ice cream, while the edge is kept on with the apple vinegar, itself complex as it’s not just a dollop of sour.

This dessert is paired with a glass of tempered verjus. It was very pear-like in sweetness with the sourness of overripe grapes. Refreshing, though it was an unnecessary addition to a dessert that has an “inbuilt” refresher. I would recommend drinking the juice separately.

Hard to describe? Yes. Delicious? Yes. So just try it.

Blueberries, vinegar & fresh cheese

So simple, so complex

Raw strawberry jam Attica

Raw strawberry jam

Again, with a name that simple, you know there’s more that’s going on with the raw strawberry jam. There’s also a thin layer of meringue in there, with forest berries and a vanilla infusion. A healthy serve of Yarra Valley strawberries and sour cream complete the dessert.

Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with this dessert. While technically complex, the tastes were very simple – jam, meringue, a bit of vanilla and fruits on the side. I’m not sure if I was missing something here, but it was definitely a step down from the blueberry dessert, and was a weak point of the meal for me.

And now, that brings an end to the meal…

…or does it? Say hi to the nest.

Pukeko Eggs

Pukeko “kinder surprise” – chocolate eggs w/salted caramel filling

Whoa, screaming back to one’s childhood, much? Accompanying this visually striking petit fours is a card with a painting by Shewry’s father of the Pukeko bird – referencing Shewry’s New Zealand heritage. The note also includes information about Shewry’s cooking methodology – in line with shifting cultures, emotions and the changing landscape of cuisine. I didn’t include the note & painting here, because I feel it’s something you should see in person. Quite special.

As for the eggs themselves…

Pukeko chocolate eggs w/caramel filling Attica

Well, goodness me

Well then. I think I’m going to get diabetes now. Awesome!

And now, the meal really does come to a close.

Chocolate cake brownie w/freeze dried blackberries, served hot Attica

Chocolate cake brownie w/freeze dried blackberries, served hot

PSYCHE! Please, it ain’t over till the blog post is over. But seriously, I’m amazed that Attica gives 4 sweet courses (if you count petit fours, or 5 for the pre dessert). I couldn’t take it any more, or so I thought. Inside this rather cool black box is a hot cake brownie almost like a pudding. It was hard to get the lighting right to take a pic of the inside but here goes…

Chocolate brownie Attica

My liver is going to have a field day with this

This was actually my favourite dessert after the blueberries. It’s just a damn good brownie. Deconstructed of course, but the ingredients are all there, and the fact that it was served warm/hot just made it taste all that much better. Decadent, delicious, and a very nice surprise from the chefs at Attica. Danke!

So, what to make of the world’s 21st best restaurant? I can’t say – I’ve barely scratched the surface of the world’s top 50, so I can’t say whether Attica deserves to be on the list. What I can say though is that this gem of a restaurant holds its own with anything Sydney has to offer. The culinary war between Melbourne and Sydney continues, and us foodies are all the better for it 😀

Attica restaurant

Till next time, #21!

Visit Attica if you’re in Melbourne. Just do it.

As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀

Awesome:

  • Some incredible dishes
  • Masterful execution of native Australian ingredients and cooking styles
  • Awesome garden tour

Not so Awesome:

  • Juice pairings were a bit questionable
  • Dessert quality has large variance
  • Some dishes incorporated unpalatable elements

8/10 Caesars

Attica on Urbanspoon

  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4 stars
  • 80%

  • Attica Melbourne
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: October 4, 2016

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18 comments on “Attica | Melbourne”

  1. seasonedplate Reply

    I will be visiting Attica this week and am very excited. I’m not sure what to expect, but your post has helped me prep for the occasion. I’m sure it will be an inspiring meal that has earned it’s spot on the world’s top 50, but now it’s time for me to find out for myself.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Hi Stephen, the menu may have changed somewhat since my last visit. That said, if the food is along the same ethos as what I’ve had, you’re in for a treat – especially if you’re into true Modern “Australian”.

      Looking forward to your post on it 🙂

  2. Chris @ MAB vs Food Reply

    Good write up of Attica. Agree that the garden tour is really cool and a great way to learn more about Ben Shewry’s philosophy. What did you do to deserve the extra chocolate brownie at the end, as I don’t think that is normally offered 😛 It looks good btw

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