Starting at the Top
Seriously, how on earth can I add to the knowledge of the top restaurant in Australia? I’m hugely excited to be dining at Attica in Melbourne tonight, but I’ve got no idea how to write about it – maybe I should just stick to pictures! Anyway it’s taken about nine months of trying to get a booking and now we’re here. And I’m intrigued, will it really be better than anything else I’ve eaten? Let’s see!
The great service starts as we approach the door and decide we need a selfie with the Attica sign. Before we blink, a waiter pops out and offers to take the photo for us – I guess we’re not the first ones to do so. It’s just the first sign of the wonderfully professional and personable service we’re going to get all night.
Bubbling with excitement
We crack open some bubbly “just cos”. As the feast begins we realise a slow avalanche of small snacks are coming our way. Basically my food brain is going to explode tonight.
Imagine the simplicity of four leaves including sorrel and mustard, to wipe up a plate of a sweet vinegar and sour cream dip. Or slices of aged Santa Claus Melon, a new one to me, sprinkled with dried raspberry powder.
The cryptic ETTNTB means ‘eat the tomato, not the bush’. I find the perfect single tomato with a unami smear of miso, hidden under the leaves . And an Egon Muller Wiltinger Braune Kabinett 2009 from Mosel, Germany is poured, with frequent refills, with all the snacks.
Then there is smashed avo on toast, nothing like the ones at my local cafes, especially the little acidic pearls of the native finger limes. And the sliced smoked pork may be simply the best and softest I’ve tasted.
Telling the Attica story
There is so much wit and history in the Imperfect History of Ripponlea as told in Three Tarts. The divine black pudding tart is homage to the influence of the english while the chicken tart with chicken soup jelly is a nod to the jewish heritage of Riponlea. The aboriginal influence creates a tart with native pepper leaves and blood limes.
I’m in love with Gazza’s vegemite pie, and I don’t even like vegemite. Chewy carrots were slowly smoked for ten hours before we eat, accompanied by an avocado whip. Lance Wiffin’s Mussel is a work of art, literally watching the intense morsels of deep fried mussels.
Beef on the bone is one intense morsel, served at the end of a long clean rib bone.
And then there’s a work of art and taste, the aromatic Ripponlea Broth. As clear as spring water, with the subtle taste of pure chicken essence, there’s a couple of dozen individual leaves, each a wildly different flavour. I’m on a foodie high and we’ve only just finished the share plates, now we graduate to a plate each per course!
Moving to the mains
We’d heard the house bread here is pretty good, and smothered with whipped butter and fried tarragon it seems like the best bread ever.
Beautifully fresh salted red kangaroo and bunya bunya are hiding under roasted beetroot. And we’ve moved onto a Bannockburn Shiraz 1999 from Geelong. I’m glad the pacing of the dishes has slowed further.
All Parts of Pumpkin are served theatrically with pumpkin cream ladled from a pumpkin shell over the 12 hour slow roasted pumpkin and pumpkin kernels. Perfect with a glass of Pennyweight Woody’s Amontillado from Beechworth
Out comes a beautiful marron with a cooked lettuce bottom half, with a Mammoth Rare White 2015 from Waimea planes. And again the rich meat of Jumbuck (lamb) with a La Sirene Farmhouse Red beer from Alphington, Victoria. The beer is delicious both stand alone and with the dish, an obscure delight indeed.
Joy, discovery and dessert
I’m pleased it’s time for a break before the sweets, but Attica have more surprises in store. We wander into the kitchen area and see the staff crossing off item after item on each tables degustation. Then we are in the garden out the back filled with leaves, herbs and tulips, chatting to more of the wonderful Attica staff and getting lots of backstory. Here’s the huge smoker which has been slowroasting the carrot, the pumpkin and others to a new state of deliciousness. As we absorb all this we get a bowl of good old fashioned backyard spider to drink, a refreshingly bubble bowl.
Back inside at our table again, three little apple pyramid stacks on the plate are drenched with a sauce of lightly fermented pineapple juice, anise myrtle oil and finger lime, a lovely sour and tangy note.
The whipped emu egg with sugar bag is a play on the previous emu egg which was savoury, it’s now sweet and creamy but I’m not at all clear what is in it. The Attica Cheftales is the final flourish, a takeoff of the old fantail wrapped caramels from our childhood, now with bio’s of chef friends of Ben Shwery.
All up, we are in Attica for five and a half wonderful hours, leaving at midnight (and not even the last to leave either). Talk about walking out on a foodie high.
Summing it all up
Best Bits: Seriously, everything. The most balanced yet inventive food, the most professional yet personable service, the highest quality of local ingredients and great chefs. The outcome is more than the sum of it’s very good parts, and it is the single best food experience I’ve had so far.
Worst Bits: it’s booked out, I can’t come back tomorrow 🙁
Where am I: Attica, 74 Glen Eira Rd, Ripponlea, Melbourne, VIC 3185