Special occasions call for a special restaurant. So to celebrate our wedding anniversary, Meat-and-Three-Veg booked us in to Attica, a restaurant which had been on my wish list for quite a while. I’m spoilt, I know. Attica doesn’t need much introduction in Australia but for the benefit of Gourmet Chick’s international readers, the Rippon Lea based restaurant is ranked in the world’s 100 best restaurants, holds Australia’s highest allocade of three chef’s hats and chef Ben Shewry comes with a stellar reputation.
|Even a simple potato at Attica becomes something pretty spectacular|
My expectations eating at Attica were extremely high because of everything I had heard and read about it and the restaurant did not let me down. It’s a pretty unassuming looking place, located in an inner suburban shopping strip, but the dark walls give Attica a moody serious feeling and the lack of decoration lets you know straight away that it is all about the food.
|Walnuts at Attica|
Top restaurants do the simple things well and first up Attica offered excellent bread with creamy yellow butter and an olive oil emulsion. This was followed by a series of amuse bouches, including an airy walnut reduction served inside a walnut shell. It was a clever way of presenting the dish but also enhanced the flavour of the reduction. However the highlight were the mussels which were had been deep fried in a light but crisp batter. Briny but also sweet and soft but also crisp they were totally addictive.
|Fried mussels at Attica|
The first proper course was the crab, shiitake and twelve basils. The flavour of the crab was really delicate and subtle allowing the earthy shiitake and crisp basils to shine. Using 12 basils showcased Attica’s huge kitchen garden which includes herbs grown at the restaurant and a large plot in the grounds of Rippon Lea.
|Crab with shiitake and basil at Attica|
Next up was one of Attica’s most famous dishes, described on the menu as “a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown”. The potato is prepared using the Maori hangi method, wrapped and buried in an oven tray filled with dirt and then roasted for 13 hours on a low heat so that the weight of the dirt transforms the texture of the potato. Wow. The potato in itself was sensational and really transformed what I thought a potato could taste like. I also loved the accompaniments of sour cream and crispy, smoky saltbush leaves added moisture and texture.
|Wallaby at Attica|
Shewry’s love for native ingredients was clear in the addition of wallaby as a course. The wallaby is sourced from a tiny island between Victoria and Tasmania known as Flinders Island and was served rare with a slight gamey flavour to it. Scorched macadamias added some crunch and ground berries gave sweetness. All the dishes were great but my favourite dish of the night was the King George Whiting which was served wrapped in bark creating a great sense of theatre when I unwrapped it. Topped with finely minced scallops the fish was amazingly rich and buttery.
|Opening the paperbark to discover buttery King George Whiting at Attica|
To finish off we actually had four dessert courses. Gluttony I know! To begin the standard dessert of tangy fresh curd ice-cream with blueberries. The blueberries were frozen making it a perfect summer dessert and the icy berries contrasted with the tart curd, shreds of apple and the dozens of Chrysanthemum petals strewn over the plate like snow. Though this dessert was far from standard we could not resist ordering Attica’s famous “Plight of the Bees” dessert as an additional dish. The dessert is created to look like a bee hive. Honey is the primary ingredient but the dessert includes layers of meringue and dried mango to create a multi-layered taste sensation.
|Three of our four desserts at Attica – curd ice-cream with blueberries, the complimentary melted chocolate dessert and Pukeko eggs|
As MTV had mentioned our wedding anniversary when he was making the booking the staff kindly offered us a complimentary dessert course which was a concoction of rich melted chocolate with dehydrated berries. Finally we were presented with a large nest which contained what we were told were the eggs of a Pukeko, a native New Zealand bird. These were actually white chocolate eggs complete with brown spots and filled with the most delicious salted caramel. Think grown up and incredibly decadent version of a Caramello Koala and you sort of have the idea.
|Plight of the Bees at Attica|
On the drinks front I stuck to Attica’s excellent champagne list, splashing out on the creamy, buttery and divine Francis Boulard Les Murgiers Blanc de Noirs ($29 a glass) while MTV drank beer. Yes we do indeed have champagne tastes on a beer budget, what a couple. It was an amazing meal at Attica with food that was clever and told a story while still delivering in terms of taste. I savoured every moment and I’d go back tomorrow if I could afford to. But maybe this type of experience is best saved for a special occasion and savoured.
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Details: Attica, 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea 3185 (Ph 03 9530 0111) Open Tues-Sun 6pm – 10pm.
Damage: Budget breaking. Our meal came to $380 with only a couple of drinks. The five course set menu is $125 a head, matched wines bring it to $210 per person.