“Be good to each other. Stay grateful for the small things. Keep on doing what you love. Never give up.” This advice comprises the mission statement of Melbourne’s one-of-a-kind, world-famous restaurant, Attica. Furthermore, a native philosophy provides the foundation upon which nearly every nuance of the Attica experience has been built, right down to the Australian-designed chairs and the handmade Australian tableware. Another way to describe this is that Attica both celebrates and revels in its unique sense of place, the specific flora and fauna which are particular to this spectacular country-continent. It is also this genuine devotion to its sense of place that acknowledges the Burnurong people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of the land where Attica is located. When you step into Attica, you are stepping into the culinary heart of this nation.
The story of Attica’s rise to fame is a fascinating one. When Owner and Head Chef Ben Shewry joined the team in 2005, Attica could surprisingly only be described as an average bistro. Expectations on Shewry were high, and he arrived equipped with a resumé that included stints at Circa, The Prince, fine-dining Thai restaurant Nahm in London and Roxburgh Bistro, Wellington. The first few years were slow going, to say the very least. Then, quite unexpectedly – the way in which life’s profoundly magical moments arise – Shewry experienced an epiphany. Having grown up on New Zealand’s west coast, his childhood naturally included a familiarity with wild edibles. Shewry then considered what would happen if he started to cook with indigenous Australian ingredients in his commercial kitchen. This is the point at which Attica’s fortune took a 180-degree turn. From that point forward, Shewry was to utilise the local flora and fauna and synthesise them via traditional European culinary techniques. The rest, as they say, is history. Not long after this monumental turnaround, Attica began winning local restaurant awards and attracting international attention. Its reflection of its surroundings through the use of local produce and local myths and its commitment to remaining informed by global ideas led to Attica becoming a regular in The World’s 50 Best list, appearing every year between 2013 and 2018. In the highly competitive and dog-eat-dog world of fine dining, this accomplishment is nothing short of miraculous.
For an establishment that has garnered such high local and international praise, Attica is perhaps an unexpectedly earthy, grounded and relaxed experience. The team acknowledges that dining with them is a genuine commitment of time and money. It also understands, despite Attica’s reputation, the kind of fine-dining expectations that can often accompany this type of a time-money commitment. As such, the team provides full disclosure and transparency – primarily by means of the website – so that potential diners may avoid any mistaken preconceptions. First and foremost, Attica loves and highlights beautiful, rare and unique ingredients. The kitchen chooses bunya nuts, murnong and marron over foie gras, caviar and lobster. An additional nod to the weird and wonderful is their use of a host of unusual herbs, the clear majority of which are grown in neighbouring Rippon Lea Estate. And though the typical Attica table setting is punctuated by a collection of beautiful cutlery, the team also believes that certain things taste better when eaten with the fingers. Yes, an open mind and the ability to leave the warmth and comfort of your cocoon will be required. Looking after people is a forté, but formality is certainly not the style. Attica’s charming, calm, professional and knowledgeable staff prefers chatting over genuflecting. For those of you not in the know, “genuflect” means “to act in a servile or deferential manner”. Enough said.
Bookings are essential at this world-renowned eatery and are quite difficult to acquire, as they open 90 days in advance. The effort, however, will repay you in leaps and bounds. Attica will electrify your senses and captivate your heart with its sense of place and its emotional, adventurous and boundary-pushing cuisine, authentic Australian cuisine at its very best. Attica is located at 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea.