Friends of food, welcome to Attica. Last Tuesday, Nat and I dined at Attica to celebrate my in law’s 24th birthday. There were six of us in total; the birthday boy Steve, his brother Cam and his cousin Scott along with their bosses Sop, Sarah and Nina. Big thanks to Sop for organising and thanks to the peeps for a great night!

Team Attica

Attica has been on a tear shotting out of nowhere to become a global hit, ranking 63rd in the top 100 on the San Pellegreno list; the highest ranked restaurant in Melbourne. With 3 hats, Ben Shewry and his team at Attica has been voted 2012’s restaurant of the year.

We picked to go to Attica on Tuesday because on Tuesday’s Ben Shewry designs a test menu for the guests for him to experiment and develop new ideas. The idea was born out of a desire to progress faster and throw caution to the wind on the seasonal produce. Five course tasting menu for $95 with the option of wine matching for an extra $70; not a bad deal when you think about it.

The restaurant itself was smaller than I expected. Not very grand and quite cozy. As you walked into the restaurant, you were greeted by some fantastic wait staff. Extremely helpful, courteous, attentive and all round thumbs up. The restaurant looked to seat maybe 50 people with a bar in the center of the room and the kitchen in the back along with a small preparation window for the chef’s table. Mr Shewry was there busy at work.

Once the team was assembled, we were greeted with some yummy goodness…

Yogurt and crème fresh butter with Murry river pink sea salt

Olive oil emulsion with black sea salt

Wattleseed house baked sourdough rye

Champagne Extra Brut Les Murgiers, Francis Boulard, NV

Butter, bread and champagne. I had a few biscuits for lunch that day so I slammed that piece of bread down with butt ton of butter and olive oil, and boy was it good! The olive oil was really light and almost foamy in the mouth and accented the black salts. The butter was really creamy, none survived! Yum… The champagne to celebrate was a Blanc de Nior by Francis Boulard made from 70% Pinot Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir. A typical champagne nose, light, fresh with orange zest, great crispness. Light bubbles, firm, restrained mid palate of peach and orange fruit salad with a blood orange / granny smith apple finish. We sipped and stuffed our mouths with bread whilst checking out the menu. Four tasting menus and three wine matchings later…

Spencer Gulf Prawns, Liquorice Leaf, Ginger Juice

Sato Riesling 2011 – Central Otago, New Zealand

First up, quickly seared prawns, fresh shaved radish, fromage blanc, liquorice puree and leaf. I stuck my nose into the plate…smells like fennel. Lovely 🙂 Prawns are fresh, looked and felt mushy to cut but actually had a nice bite to it. The accompaniments reminded me of a tzatziki mix which offset the menthol liquorice leaf.

The wine was a New Zealand Riesling with high residual sugar with the intention to match the slight spice of the dish. Nose was a tad closed for me only getting a creamy and sweet custard like note – condenced milk? It is that sweet bread smell you get from “mantow” or pain Chinese steamed buns. Palate is med bodied, you really get a sweet kick in the attack from the residual sugar. Feels like a young wine with a powdery tannin in the back and finish. A thicker Riesling that I expected.

The dish brought up the acidity in the wine which balanced off the weight and thickness of the crème fresh. A nice little dish to start the night.

Jerusalem Artichokes, Pine Mushroom, Cured Egg Yoke

Yeringberg Marsanne / Roussane 2009 – Yarra Valley, Victoria

 Next up is caramelized artichokes, pine mushrooms finished with a mushroom stock. The dish smelt great; you get big mushroom flavours though the Jerusalem artichokes still power through.

It WAS a neat looking dish, that is until the mushroom stock was poured on…then it became….not the neatest looking dish. Presentation aside, the artichoke is delicious. Good transition of textures; firm jacket potato like skin, thick stock with an egg yoke consistency and a firm bitey artichoke. Nice earthy and salty hits from the mushroom sauce as well as the surrounding raw mushrooms on the side. I really liked this dish but as you eat, you get a build up of bitterness and saltiness. The wine actually amps this up which i’m not a fan off so maybe drink first, then eat.

Talking about the wine, Yeringberg is one of the largest holdings in the Yarra Valley. This Marsanne / Roussane was served in a Chardonnay glass to help bring up the aromatics. Again, I didn’t get much from the nose, only hints of rose petals and lilac. Palate is milky but light bodied. Transitions into a solid mid palate with classic minerality, grafite balanced off with green apples and nashi pears. Oddly enough, finished off like roasted carrots.

The wine has a great depth, structure and body to hold up against the food but flavours clashed a bit. Overall, I did like the dish, keeping in mind it was an experimental dish. I think this has what it takes to be a great dish with refinement but defiantly change the wine.

King George Whiting, Lettuce Heart, Buttermilk

Domaine de la Tour du Bon Rosé 2010 – Bandol, France

King George whiting from the Cornella inlet in Lakes Entrance, crumbed with potato starch, rye and thyme. The fish came with a side of lettuce with compressed buttermilk and rye crumbs.

Fish! This dish had some very inviting aromatics with a nice crust though again, not your most inviting dish…Now, here is where my supposed McDonnalds cravings set in. I swear the lettuce and the fish combo (more so the lettuce) tasted like what you get from a Big Mac. Not the beef etc, the sauce is what i’m getting at, maybe buttermilk is in the special sauce! The fish was nicely crumbed and seasoned with the lettuce adding some mustard flavours and textural crunch.

The matching wine was a rosé from the south of France made from a mix of Mouvedre, Chinsault and Grenache. Nose of bubblegum and fairy floss which I think comes from the Chinsault and Grenache, with red roses and a touch of sugared cherries and mint. Attack is a little chilli and some watered down honeydew, cantaloupe with a kick of harsh lemon rind. Finishes a bit spicy and so not what you expect!

Wine brings a gentle sweetness to the dish and adds a little needed lift. Bit boring of a dish and expected a tad more from a place like Attica. It surprised me that this was most of the peoples favourite dish only due to the fact that it was “faultless.” Meh…

Meat & Potatoes – Hangi Style

Albino Rocca ‘Rosso di Rocca’ 2009 – Piedmont, Italy

This dish is cooked in the earth (Hangi cooking technique), wrapped in a cloth and cooked 80% within the earth and finished off before serving. Cooked for nearly 10 hours and rested for 3. Served with watercress and pork vinaigrette made from pork stock, cherry and cider.

So this one, I swear smelt like a McDonnals cheese burger. It’s the sweet and saltiness you get from the mustard, tomato sauce, onions and the cheese but also that zing of the lone pickle. People round the table did me the courtesy of sticking their noses into the plate but I also got a bit more elbow room all of a sudden. Dang namit.

I got straight into the pork and it wasn’t as soft as you would have thought. It’s kinda “fall of the bone” but not “melt in your mouth”. Potato and carrot are nice complements to the dish and seemed to soak up the vinaigrette whist bringing and change in texture and some creaminess to an otherwise relatively dry pork (needed more fat!).

The wine was an Italian blend of 80% Nebbiolo, 10% Cab Franc, 10% Barbara, an earthy wine to match the earthiness of the dish. Nose is sweet with raspberries, some green olives and outback twigs. Has a firm attack, well structured and has a pea like vegetal rawness but still restrained. Mid palate brings up some great raspberry and cherry flavours with a slight alcohol and suckling tannins on the finish, lingering for ages. I really enjoyed this wine the more it breathed.

The wine adds a great mouthfeel and balances off the acidity from the vinaigrette. The Hangi style potato is meant to be one of Attica’s signature dishes, but it’s only ok for me.

Apples and Pears

Charles Hours ‘Uruolat’ Jurançon 2010 – Languedoc, France

McFlurry! Nonono, I jest….

Apples and pears, compressed and dehydrated then basted in it’s own juices, accompanied with chestnut, freeze dried apples, olive and a hazelnut sauce.

Odd flavour profile. Very fruit forward into a yogurt and mascarpone flavours and texture, into a slight tartness balanced off with some olive and then a lemon meringue custard. Thick on the palate, great mix of textures of creaminess and crunch and the wine complementing the fruits flavours nicely.

The wine is a Jurançon made with 100% Manseng, late harvest non-botrytised sweet wine. I was looking forward to this wine as Sop and Steve were raving about it. I mentioned this to our waiter and he lovingly poured Sop an extra glass!

Nose of apple and poached pears, bit of blue cheese and little of banana. Attack is gentle, not overly sweet, light bodied and not viscous; surprisingly clean and light. Flavours build up into pears, apricots and caramel in the mid palate with a well balanced acidity. Finish is again gentle and has that nice non-syrup clean finish whist still giving off a syrup flavour and aspect.

My favourite dish of the day.

One of the nicest sweet wines I have tasted.

Folks, I think we have a winner….

So, Attica, hummmm…..have to say I’m a little disappointed. I didn’t mind the food, the desert was lovely and the artichokes/prawns weren’t too bad but generally the food was not to the standard I would have expected from a place like Attica. Having said that it was an experimental menu, so it’s obviously not what they would have served normally. If anyone has been to Attica and tried their actual tasting menu, let me know your thoughts!

Thanks everyone for a great night and big thanks again to the fantastic wait staff, tip top! Oh and how can I forget…Happy Birthday Steve!

Steve’s Chocolate Birthday Cake

This is the Voice!


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