When I mentioned to a friend that my partner and I were going to Attica, he immediately asked what we were celebrating…
It was too far between our birthdays to use that as excuse, so I came to the realisation that there really was no occasion. This discovery prompted a brief existential food crisis. Did I have a subconscious desire to be ‘seen’ at the restaurant? Was it the attraction of all the photographs that I could post onto Facebook to the disdain (and envy) of my friends? Never. To go to Attica in pursuit of self-promotion would be to reject the philosophies underpinning the award-winning Ripponlea eatery. It was the intrigue of Chef Ben Shewry’s commitment to constructing dishes that resurrect child memories, that brought me to the restaurant.
The inevitability that the next dish would only top the previous was a divine pattern to emerge from the indulgent feast. I was rendered dumbfounded as to how the exquisite meat from the pearl oyster – a gem of meat paired with a square of pork crackling whose texture can only be described as a rich puff pastry – could be improved. But the moment I became anxious that the best dish of the night had already been served, I was not disappointed. The menu followed a different direction, a different focus, reaffirming its loyalty to another meal, and leaving me in eager anticipation for its arrival.
15-minute intervals divided the colossal degustation into manageable parts, but even the smaller-than-usual portions proved difficult to finish. Nevertheless the allure of each dish, in particular the kumara, a rich yolky poached egg bathing in a salty Parmesan broth, balanced by crisp broccoli, was too irresistible both in texture and flavour. Is it possible to have too big a plate of perfection? My question was answered with the arrival of the beef tongue infused with a subtle vanilla. But wait, the tenderness of the round fillet is peerless in comparison. Oh, description truly does it no justice.
The first dessert of two was the standout: archipelagos of 12-hour dried raisins and crisp grapes dotted the place, occasional clouds of whey overcast the meal. Topping it was a hazelnut gel that captured both the fragrant and nutty dimensions of the dish. The combination conjured up images of a summer dusk spent outside.
Like the memories Shewry sought to portray through his dishes, my recollection of Attica is one bookended by engaging service. The staff walking me to the door as I left, as family would, is a memory that has persistently stayed in my mind. A fitting end to an incredible evening.