A guide to the best restaurants in Australia would not be complete without the inclusion of Attica. The restaurant is perhaps our most recognised restaurant internationally and has established itself as the pinnacle of fine dining in Australia.
Attica and the man behind it all, New Zealand born chef, Ben Shewry, need no introduction. Claiming the title, 20th Best Restaurant in the World in 2018 as voted by The World’s 50 Best, is something that no other Australian restaurant has done, and Ben and his team continue to collect accolades at the flourish of a napkin.
Of course, there is much hard work that goes into the Attica concept. It is far more than a restaurant, it is a beautifully well-rounded dining experience with cuisine that is a celebration of the Australian story. Situated in the tiny bayside suburb of Ripponlea, the only word for this red-brick building is unassuming. It is inside where the magic happens.
The degustation-style dinner is interactive, both in regard to the food and the staff. Chefs present meals, introducing themselves and the story behind their dish. Tucking into each little plate, you will find yourself unwrapping something or heartbreakingly destroying the piece of art in front of you. Food is crafted from beautiful, rare and unique ingredients; this does not mean bits and bobs that have been flown in from remote parts of the world, but eclectic native plants that are unfamiliar to even the most true-blue of Australians.
Since taking up ownership of Attica, Ben has shifted from weaving his New Zealand heritage into dishes, and he now creates food that speaks clearly of place. Now calling Australia home, he has embraced all that comes with that, celebrating cultures, history and looking to the smallest, most boutique of suppliers. Sourcing meats from local butcher, Gary McBean from Prahran Market’s Gary’s Quality Meats, Gulbarn Tea from the Minyerri people in a small, remote pocket of the Northern Territory, and bread from neighbouring Ripponlea bakery, Baker Bleu. Ben not only showcases Australia’s best produce at Attica but leaves no stone unturned when sourcing it.
This intriguing collection of ingredients come together in the most decadent of dishes. Those who have dined at Attica struggle to pinpoint their favourite part, though whispers of his creations like the Emu’s Egg, the delicate ‘An Imperfect History of Ripponlea’ in three tarts and, of course, the daunting Black Ant Lamington, have spread all over the world. Every dish promotes a conversation and a sense of awe that can only be found in food that is as well-thought-out and researched as that being served at Attica.
Dining at Attica is far from a casual meal. Ben and his team will be the first to admit that, but there are few Australian venues that can boast the reputation that this small suburban venue has built. Ben has not only lifted Melbourne to the world stage but has woven himself into the history and future of Australian food, Attica is certainly not a name that will ever be forgotten.