8 course tasting menu – $140.00 per person / with matched wine $235.00 per person
- Snow crab (Gosset Brut Excellence NV, Champagne, France)
- Marron tail, cured beef, wild sea flora (Larry Cherubino Riesling 2010, Porongurup, WA)
- A simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown (Domaine Pichot ‘Coteau de la Biche’ Vouvray 2008, Loire Valley, France)
- Bass groper, shiitake, quinoa (Prancing Horse ‘Terroir de Courigs’ 2008, Chablis, France)
- Lamb, mushrooms roasted over wood, sauce of forbs (Tapanappa ‘Whalebone Vineyard’ Merlot 2003, Wrattonbully, SA)
- Beef, red radish, white cabbage (Syrahmi ‘Maelstrom’ Shiraz 2008, Heathcote, Vic)
- Terroir (Mas Amiel Grenache Noir 2008, Maury, France)
- Apple, olive, warm shredded wheat (Bernadins Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2007, Rhone Valley, France)
Embarking on a food and wine tour of Victoria and believing everything would just fall into place was wishful thinking. We hadn’t bothered to book Attica in advance and were highly disappointed to discover we couldn’t get a table when we wanted, or at all for that matter.
Sitting high on the San Pellegrino world rankings above other stalwarts of Melbourne such as Jacques Reymond we quickly realised it is a privilege to secure a table at Attica and we had made the big mistake of not booking in advance.
Unable to partake in the infamous ‘Tuesday Night Chef’s Table’ we were happy enough to be placed on the waiting list for our last few days in Victoria in the hope that someone would cancel their booking. Unexpectedly while browsing the aisles at Books for Cooks we received a phone call confirming a table for Wednesday evening. We were relieved, thankful and excited; we would have the privilege of dining at Attica after all.
Rated one of the country’s top chefs, having recently been awarded 2010 chef of the year by The Age Good Food Guide, Ben Shewry has a philosophy on food difficult to overlook and we couldn’t wait to experience the dishes he puts forth.
Sadly we didn’t get a photo of the bread (no doubt Lex jumped straight in before I had a chance) but it was beautiful white sourdough and multigrain accompanied by whipped olive oil with black sea salt and house made butter. The olive oil was cold smoked, giving it a light smokey flavour and having been whipped with gelatin it took on a mousse like consistency, served in a mini double walled glass while the butter was served in what looked like a metal measuring tablespoon.
Early on I got the impression that something pretty special was about to happen. The amuse bouche was a spring vegetable salad of heirloom carrots, green cauliflower, broccoli and tatsoi leaves with a dollop of fromage frais. Vibrant and fresh with one agenda; to get our taste buds ready for what we had signed up for.
Snow crab (Gosset Brut Excellence NV, Champagne, France).
Inspired by snow capped Mount Taranaki (New Zealand) near where Ben grew up, the white mountain is striking on a black plate. Looking at this dish you think of one thing, snow. The first mouthful helps bring this thought to reality with a melt in your mouth affect that is not of the sumptuous variety you associate with something delectable but with the physical state of something melting. Beyond this light melt you really get to appreciate the complexity of what is in front of you. Comprising snow crab, salmon roe, puffed rice, barberries, leek ash, verjuice granita, freeze dried coconut and horseradish oil. The horseradish takes a prominent position with its stringent taste but never gets in the way of the crab which anchors the other elements.
Marron tail, cured beef, wild sea flora (Larry Cherubino Riesling 2010, Porongurup, WA).
Soft and buttery with that lovely taste of fresh seafood followed by the rich but never overpowering touch of the cured beef. Set in a vibrant red ‘sea’ created with red rose powder, I found this dish full of complex flavours with the marron tail firmly sitting as the star of the dish. Pleasant and a great dish to follow the Snow Crab though not strong enough to be classed in the same league. The recipe for the marron tail can be found here
A simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown (Domaine Pichot ‘Coteau de la Biche’ Vouvray 2008, Loire Valley, France).
A simple potato tournéd so beautifully and cooked in the earth it had grown for 7-8 hours made for such an in-depth yet ‘simple’ and impressive dish. Potato, salt bush leaves, pink salt from the Murray River, coconut ash (from young coconut), finely grated dried tuna, salt bush berries, ground coffee, cold smoked goat’s curd and cow’s milk curd. Unbelievably soft and silky the earthy potato left me wondering how such a simple vegetable could be so impressive. Watch Ben demonstrating the dish here
Bass groper, shiitake, quinoa (Prancing Horse ‘Terroir de Courigs’ 2008, Chablis, France).
A firm white fish paired with a brilliant mushroom, the shiitake, in a fine broth and topped with quinoa known in ancient times as the ‘mother of all grains’. This dish’s visual appeal had me wondering how things would turn out. The slight pop/crunch of the quinoa seeds gives such a complimentary textural feel to the fish in its mushroom broth. While the earthly nature of the shiitake can sometimes take over, the level here just provided a subtle accent to the fish and its textural grain topping.
Lamb, mushrooms roasted over wood, sauce of forbs (Tapanappa ‘Whalebone Vineyard’ Merlot 2003, Wrattonbully, SA).
Well executed lamb that is medium without being too rare or too well done is something alone to be happy with, but when the smoky mushrooms impart their tone to the dish you find that through the lightness a perfectly piece of lamb can be lifted further. A group of flowering plants, forbs were not anything we had ever tried before and while it is hard to describe the flavour it reminded me of fresh dandelion. Plenty of strong flavours battling out but thankfully the lamb was the clear winner never being overpowered by the complimentary elements.
Beef, red radish, white cabbage (Syrahmi ‘Maelstrom’ Shiraz 2008, Heathcote, Vic).
The dark plate offset the lush red of the beef and concealed the toasted black sesame puree while the white cabbage really helped set it in place. Individually each element was stark and over the top but when eaten together a balance was found that is hard to explain. Once again it was the core of the dish, the beef which ties everything else and allowed us to really appreciate what the kitchen had set out to achieve.
Terroir (Mas Amiel Grenache Noir 2008, Maury, France).
Terrior pronounced ‘tehr-wah’ and coming from the word terre ‘land’ is definitely the essence of Ben’s philosophy, taking time to bring together dishes that have some significance in the surroundings Ben lives in. Quite unique, a vibrant red mound accented by lush green sitting atop a white yoghurt sorbet. Knowing the sheer number of elements incorporated such as beetroot, raspberries, sorrel and kiwi fruit to name a few, we were left wondering just how long it would take to construct such complex a dish. I found it hard to comprehend the complexity in this dish and it left me feeling I wasn’t up the challenge presented of appreciating it fully.
Apple, olive, warm shredded wheat (Bernadins Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2007, Rhone Valley, France).
We caught lovely wafts of cinnamon as the bowl of warmed apple was brought to the table and I was feeling quite content with the dessert as is. But I was pleasantly surprised when along came Ben Shewry himself to present us with the finishing touches for this dish. Having just won The Age Good Food Guide chef of the year award we couldn’t help but offer our congratulations to Ben and thank him for the wonderful food we’d enjoyed during the night. Adding the shredded wheat we had a dessert in front of us that visually could be mistaken for a simple breakfast meal, yet as we had learnt that night looks can be deceiving. Packed full of flavour we stopped only to exchange brief grins to one another as the dessert disappeared with little effort.
White Chocolate Eggs with Salted Caramel filling.
Thinking it was all over Lex and I were more than impressed with everything the night had to offer. And then the ‘final’ dish arrived, a little nest of grass and hay holding a pair of speckled eggs, a tribute to the native Pūkeko of NZ. I was quite full by this stage and not being fixated with dessert, I allowed the chocolate fiend to enjoy my egg as well as her own. Made of white chocolate and filled with salted caramel, as I had imagined this was a winner in her books. Such a lovely way to end a meal that confirmed to us Ben Shewry is ‘the’ best chef in Melbourne and so highly rated in the world.
The night was coming to an end and we sat musing over what had transpired. The service headed up by Ainslie was impeccable and even though we were a little weary of being sat near a service door every such care was taken by staff when entering and exiting the door we soon forgot it was even there. The food left us with our stomachs satisfied beyond belief, our taste buds buzzing off the charts and our minds racing just trying to keep up with the complex simplicity of the night’s meal. Quite easy to see why Ben Shewry and Attica rate so highly in the restaurant world.
74 Glen Eira Rd
Ripponlea VIC 3185
(03) 9530 0111