For me, the Gourmet Husbands dinner at Attica was an eye opening experience.
As I begin to write this review, I am feeling significantly out of my depth,
I don't even know where to start. Who am I to comment on a restaurant which
attained the title of 2009 Restaurant of the Year in The Age Good Food Guide?
Who am I to discuss the pros and cons of ingredients I've never even heard of?
So that's the angle I'm going to take, a cross between a food novice, and what
will probably end up seeming a starry-eyed fan.
Attica is the restaurant of Chef Ben Shewry, recently named in Food and Wine Magazine's 2009 rising stars.
The dining room was smaller than I expected, but far from cramped. The staff were extremely
accommodating when we arrived 20 minutes before our booking, and equally happy to
alter the tasting menu in light of my dietary requirements (allergies, not anything crazy
like veganism). We all decided on the 8 course degustation menu ($130, $215 with matched wines).
Until this point I've been un-sold on the concept of degustation, generally preferring
ordering a la carte and wines on my own. I am now a convert.
Arriving first was what was listed on the menu simply as snow crab . This was
an eye opener for me in every sense of the word. The waiter informed us that the dish
was a marriage of subtle flavours and complimentary textures. This is the first time
I have every been at a restaurant and been able to say I have never eaten anything like
it before in my life. Snow crab, puffed rice, freeze dried coconut, so much more than
the menu would lead you to believe. I'm still not sure I believe it.
The following was also an award winner - the 2009 dish of the year in fact.
Smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, fresh smoke. The dish comes
covered in an upturned glass bowl, which when removed releases a cloud of wonderful
smelling wood smoke. The trout broth and basil seeds is then poured over the revealed
crackling from a small glass beaker. The first of many reminders of the high-tech
origins of many of the dishes.
The next few dishes included a slow roasted potato with cured tuna and goats whey,
and a rare kingfish before we made it onto what would be considered the mains. The
first of which was glenloth pigeon, celery, borage, bitter onion, the bitter
onion again poured from scientific glassware (a test tube in this case). This was
followed by slow cooked free range pork, baby turnips, house-made black pudding, apple.
The pork flavours in each of the 4 parts of this dish (neck, poached pork, house made bacon and
the black pudding) were truly astounding.
Desert was another revelation. The first of which simply called: terroir. I guess
it could be classed as a savoury dessert, though not without sweetness. It consisted
of freeze dried berries, dehydrated beetroot, lime jelly ice, some greenery, all covering
a fromage frais sorbet. This dish, amongst all the others of unbelievable quality, is the
one that literally made me sit back and decide this was it. This was the best meal I have
ever eaten. That view was only reinforced when it was followed by Sauternes custard with blackberries.
Another unassuming name for a truly remarkable dish.
At this point I simply have to stop gushing. I haven't even mentioned some of the alternative
dishes I sampled due to my dietary needs (a Moroccan lamb, and wagyu steak - spectacular). Nor
have I written of the amazingly well matched wines, including a Spanish sherry, French Cider,
and a good collection of French,Italian and Australian wineries represented. I find it hard
to recommend Attica highly enough, I now know what all the fuss is about. Wow.
8 Course Tasting Menu
Matched wines. Including a Spanish Sherry, a French pear cider, some French, Italian and Australian wines.