After waiting for several weeks on a waiting list at the prestigious Attica, I received a call to let me know that a spot had opened up for me on my birthday! I chose an 8pm seating and arrived at the small brick-fronted facade about 10 minutes early with a dinner partner in tow.
We were greeted at the door and shown to a seat at the back of the restaurant, quite near the kitchen. Attica’s decor is simple but stylish with rich dark walls, off-white tablecloths with just the right amount of lighting to create small islands of light around the dining room. No candles or flowers adorned the table just a small bowl of the seeds of some sort of fruit with a sprig of native flora.
We ordered the 8 course degustation at $175 each and rather than wine match the meal for an extra $115 each we opted for a fine bottle of Farr Rising Gippsland Pinot Noir for $80.
The servers were attentive and provided a nice somewhat fluffy rye bread which unfortunately for my gluten intolerant dinner partner was unable to be eaten. It was surprising that a restaurant that caters for gluten intolerant people would not have bread that could be eaten by these special guests.
Before the first course was served we were given an amuse-bouche of Walnut puree served in a hollowed out walnut placed in a bowl of woodchips. It was an interesting start that would characterize the earthy nature inspired dishes to follow.
1st Course – Tomato, Smoked Sesame, Eleven Basils
At great start to the meal, the dish contained a mixture of Russian tomatoes, smoked sesame and hazelnuts and 11 different kinds of basil from the Attica garden, resting on a very sweet red pepper. The sweetness of the tomato balanced perfectly with the smokiness of the sesame and the hazelnuts added an important textural element to the dish. Very tasty!
2nd Course – Marron, Leek, Native Pepper
Probably my least favorite dish of the night. The Marron was a little underwhelming and quite chewy in texture. The leek did not add much flavor to the dish. The dish was saved from being a fairly boring and bland experience by the Chorizo, Bacon and Oyster stock which was poured in after the dish had been presented at the table. After the great starter this dish felt like a bit of a let down unfortunately as I felt each of the elements didn’t work that well together.
3rd Course -A simple dish of Potato cooked in the earth it was grown
This potato was cooked in a traditional Maori style called a Hangi where the food is buried in a pit with hot stones and cooked under soil. The head chef of Attica is a kiwi from my part of New Zealand and it is good to see that he is trying to influence Australian cuisine with New Zealand cooking methods.
This course was OK but not a stand out. The potato was soft and tasty but it did not have the smokey flavor of a traditional Hangi. It sat on a bed of goats curd, with coffee and coconut flecks. I enjoyed the taste of this base but my dinner partner felt that the coffee may be a little overpowering. As a non coffee drinker I am usually the first one to notice a strong coffee flavor but in this case I felt the balance of flavor was right.
4th Course – Meat from the Pearl Oyster
This was close to my favorite dish and the one I was looking forward to the least not being a huge fan of seafood in general. I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the lightly sauteed Oyster and the beautiful piece of pork belly hidden underneath. The pork melted in the mouth and had a thin husky layer of skin on top. The textures and flavors married well and it was a pleasure to eat.
5th Course – Kumara, Purslane, Pyengana
Probably the best dish of the night. It had everything you could ask for. The sweetness of the New Zealand sweet potato, the crunch in texture of the almonds, the richness of egg yolk and the divine warm cheese poured into the dish at the table combined to make an explosion on my taste buds. My dinner partner felt the cheese maybe made it a little salty but I thought it was exceptional.
6th Course – Flinders Island Wallaby, Bunya Pine, Begonia
Another dish that was pleasant but not stunning. We both felt that there should have been more Wallaby and for me the meat (strip loin) was a little chewy. It lay on a bed of cream and Wallaby blood pudding with the Bunya pine adding a bit of zing to the dish. For a menu that lacked a lot of protein this could have been the hero of the degustation. It fell short of greatness but was still enjoyable to eat.
7th Course – Raisins, Whey, Hazelnut
The first dessert course of the evening and my dinner partners favorite dish. Very simple but fresh and bursting with flavor. This dessert was a mixture of regular green grapes, raisanified green grapes, curds and why. It was a refreshing dish which helped cleanse the palate and wasn’t overly sweet with the addition of the dairy. Lovely dish.
Sneaky dish in between 7th and 8th course – Plight (Flight?) Of the Bees
The gentleman sitting at the table next to use was being served a few different dishes than the ones we were being provided and we soon found out he was a traveling chef from overseas who was being given the full Attica experience. What most intrigued us is when he was provided with what looked like a miniature bee hive. Noticing it was not on the menu we asked the serving staff if there was a possibility that we could get it included in our dinner. After consulting with the chefs they confirmed we could include it for an additional $15 each.
We were not disappointed with what was presented. A thin coat of New Zealand honey sat upon a lemon ice sorbet spliced with thyme and a meringue and layer of custard sat underneath. The tartness of the lemon was perfectly balanced by the sweet succulent raspberries hidden in the bottom. This was a very delightful dish and we felt very lucky to be able to sample it.
Course 8 – Native Fruits of Australia
Unfortunately I forgot the names of all these native fruits which are apparently protected species and can only be eaten via these sorts of restaurants. 6 different fruits sat around a pool of custard topped with an icy fruit flavored sorbet. Each fruit was interesting and tasted unlike anything I have had before. An interesting way to end the meal.
The final dish we had, was a glorious white chocolate egg based on the eggs of the Pukeka in New Zealand. These eggs were filled with a gooey creamy custard-like centre. Incredibly sweet and absolutely delicious. After letting them know it was my birthday they graciously provided us with another 2 eggs.
Overall Thoughts – 7.5 / 10
There were some great dishes, some really nice dishes and a few average ones. All in all it was a very nice fine dining experience with some interesting choices of dishes and knowledgeable, friendly staff who were attentive and helpful. I would go back.