Cam Whiteoak on test tube: Attica, 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea +61 3 9530 0111. Check out the full Attica photo set here
Moan. It’s the room. Reviewers keep deducting points for the room at Attica.
True, it is plain. But look at it this way, chef Ben Shewry gets to do what he does at an affordable price because they haven’t paid some A-list restaurant designer to completely redo the place. Personally, I don’t mind the room.
What we are talking about here is food that is 18 or even 19 points. But as a restaurant as a whole it scores 17.5, according to the latest review from Larissa Dubecki.
And now Sydney diners will get the chance to test Shewry’s food at in a different room on September 14.
Of course, I am biased. I’ve been to Attica so often on my own shilling – as well as a couple of freebee media dinners – that I have got to know Ben and Cam well. Oh yeah, and we got truffle on that potato dish.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been lucky enough to follow Ben’s development as a chef. Like artists, a test of a chef’s talent is how his food evolves. You can’t stand still.
At Attica there is constant progress with changing equipment, technique and ingredients, especially the ingredients which are now 99 per cent local, original and in some cases foraged. His dedication to the art is such that even the butter is made in-house.
The food is not only a experience in ingredients but inspiration from his childhood, aroma, texture and temperature and serving. But not too much; it won’t freak you out.
The extremes Shewry is now going to, to develop his unique style outside the influences of other chefs include rarely eating out at other restaurants, avoiding cookbooks and attempting not to be typecast by any one dish such as his famous “smoked trout broth, crackling, basil seeds, fresh smoke”.
I should probably add that it’s probably time that everybody forgets everything you read about Attica and Thai influences. These date back to 2005 and the fact that Ben spent a month working in the kitchen of David Thomson’s Nahm in London in 2002. He’s come a long, long way since then. Even since last year he has stopped cooking sous vide.
And although Food & Wine in the US recognises Shewry as rising talent, whichever writer they used to write this quite obviously hasn’t eaten at Attica in years: (And this is how magazines fail us – you wouldn’t believe how much is written without even visiting a restaurant or trying a product):
Chef Ben Shewry is both high-tech (he judiciously adapts molecular techniques) and primal (he forages ingredients). His complex Thai-Australian dishes, like an electric bong–smoked trout, have cemented his reputation as the country’s most promising young talent.
Just to reiterate: There is nothing Thai influenced at Attica and there hasn’t been for years.
With young foraged leaves of saltbush and smoked trout, we were lucky also to have truffle shaved on to this deliciously earthy and aromatic dish.
The snowcrab is so much more inspired by Mt Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island. It’s a journey in texture and temperature.
A sort of rubble flavoured with fresh violets is is a crispy development of Ben’s terroir.