Even as the upper echelons of the restaurant industry lean further towards the rediscovery and celebration of the land and culinary heritage, few can match the fundamental connection with nature evident at Attica. The menu at the Melbourne restaurant, overseen by New Zealander Ben Shewry, is studded with earthy flavours and foraged ingredients, while the dining experience is simultaneously sophisticated and deeply grounded.
A deep connection with nature characterises Ben Shewry’s unusual food
Earnest but warm and open, Shewry has gained the respect of his peers for his deep dedication to his principles of sustainability, to his family and to the cooking craft – reflected in his Highest New Entry debut in last year’s list. His cuisine remains uniquely imaginative and original, with dishes often referencing the landscape and memories of his childhood on the wild west coast of NZ’s North Island. King George whiting, topped with meat-infused butter, is cooked in smoking paper bark; potato is cooked ‘in the earth in which it is grown’; snow crab comes with 12 flavours of St Joseph’s Wort (aka sweet basil). Diners at this 50-cover restaurant in the quiet suburb of Ripponlea sometimes even step out into the kitchen garden for a between-courses alfresco snack.
The restaurant interior boasts a dark colour palette with spotlit tables, service is unobtrusive and the wine selection suitably natural in bent. Modest owners David and Helen Maccora retained their belief in Shewry even when the restaurant was less commercially successful, and their support has undoubtedly paid off with Attica’s five dinner services a week fully booked many months in advance.