This year I finally found a foodie friend willing to take the plunge and splurge with me at Attica, Ben Shewry’s celebrated restaurant in Ripponlea, dubbed Australias’ best as number 32 on the ‘Worlds 50 Best‘ list. We eagerly refreshed our internet browsers as bookings for August opened three months ago, secured our booking and stashed a little money away each week ready for our booking. The day finally came, and we had our Attica experience.
Degustations are in my opinion, one of the most exciting ways to dine. I know this type of dining isn’t for everyone, and as I experienced Attica last evening I could think of several of my friends who love food but wouldn’t find the Attica experience for them. A chefs degustation menu is like surrendering to being taken on a journey by the chef. And like any journey, I feel that there are always going to be experiences that thrill you and excite you, and experiences that challenge you. That was my experience at Attica last night. I didn’t love every single dish on the 20 course degustation, but I could see the point in every course. There were dishes I absolutely loved, and could barely talk whilst eating because I enjoyed them so much. But there were some that pushed me to the limit, forced me to step out of my comfort zone and try something completely new, which to me is the beauty of this kind of dining experience.
Attica is simply and elegantly furnished, with a series of rooms. The corner room we were in seemed the perfect spot as we had a front on view of the open kitchen where two chefs painstakingly assembled intricate entrees and desserts. Being able to watch them assemble the food we eventually ate gave the evening a theatrical feel, and just helped to heighten our excitement.
The eclectic and fun feel of the whole evening added to the experience Being Australia’s best restaurant, I had expected it to feel a lot more pretentious than it did, and it was refreshing to see the professional but lively style of the waiters who were able to have a joke with us throughout our dinner, and seemed down to earth and genuinely friendly, without a pompous air about them at all. I guess any restaurant where the first 12 courses require you to eat by hand, with no cutlery, is going to have a quirky feel about it. This was added to by additional touches during the meal, such as a huge chefs knife with an abalone dish that didn’t really require such a big knife, or the giant chieken the ‘Cheftales’ (Atticas’ take on Fantales) were served on at the end.
Every dish told a story, and were thought provoking and evocative. From my favourite dish of the evening, the gorgeous ‘An Imperfect History of Ripponlea’, three tarts showcasing three different cultural influences in the area, to the famous Whipped Emu Egg with Quandong, to the dish that challenged me the most, Camel Milk Ice served with dehydrated… ants!
Despite the many courses, I felt that the timings were appropriate. Our first course was on the table within 15 minutes of our booking, and we wouldn’t have waited more than 10 minutes between courses from there on. It is a long evening, but when you are outlaying that much money for a dining experience, I feel that anything shorter wouldn’t feel as though you had got value for money.
Small touches like the infamous tea break in the garden, standing amongst the beautiful edible tulips we had just enjoyed with our last savoury course, the Tulips and Jumbuck, whilst enjoying an Aboriginal Gumbi Gumbi tea and some hot jam doughnuts in front of an outdoor gas heater, added to the ‘journey’ element of the evening. I really appreciated Bens’ subtle nods to the Aboriginal heritage of Australia and the area through the use of indigenous herbs, fruits and seeds.
Attic is more than just a dinner, but an experience of three and a half hours, exploring so many different textures and flavours. It is easy to see why this intriguing and thought provoking menu is celebrated around the world. The menu has the ability to surprise, excite and challenge your mind, eyes and palate, and the anticipation of watching the next course arrive and wondering what the hell it might be makes the evening like a carnival for those of us with a passion for food and an ability to appreciate a chefs work as an art form.
Attica operates on a three monthly booking system; bookings for December open on the 6th of September at 9am.
Have a delicious day.