It’s taken me a while to post my Attica experience since I’ve been very busy since picking up a more… offline hobby. So here it is, finally! Most of it was written shortly after my experience so hopefully the accuracy is maintained 🙂
Alright. The big one of 2016 – Attica. Well, there was Noma Australia too. It’s certainly been an action packed year so far! I was super excited to visit and had made sure to book just as the month of July became available for bookings. Those tables of 2 went quick; halfway through the day they were gone already for dinners on Fridays and Saturdays!
Too bad Ben wasn’t there that week – he was instead in New York for the announcement of the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants. And once again, did very well! I’m so happy for him.
The decor here was so nice, every table had a basket with feathers and weird nutty things (which much much later, I realised were quandong seeds!).
Pretty glasses, anyone?
There was also a hay-type material weaved animal, which my friends and I were guessing for half the night. My guess was dingo!
After having taken our drink options (juice parings gogo!), the food started. Even though I’d watched Chef’s Table and read about dishes like potato cooked in the dirt it was grown in, I hadn’t actually researched (stalked) much about what to expect on the night, so everything here came as a surprise.
First up, garden pickings. A davidson plum, sorrel, chard. As soon as I saw the davidson plum, I realised I’d had it before in Adelaide! It’s a very confusing fruit since it has two bulbs, of which one is a seed and inedible. This one certainly tasted better than my first experience with this fruit! Having had sorrel and chard and every which vegetable happened to grow in South Australia, this starter was quite familiar to me.
Next up, textures of corn. Oh yes, sweet, sweet corn! This was so simple and absolutely delicious! I miss really good creamed corn.
Cucumber and pumpkin essence
The first part of the juice pairing. The pairings spanned across two to three dishes, and this one accompanied the first few snacks. Very refreshing and the pumpkin flavour came through as sweet.
Ah, Goolwa pippies. I had my fill of them in Adelaide, and they are certainly very good! Ben’s right to showcase them here because they’re absolutely delicious!
Smashed avo on toast
Because I’m hipster on the inside, this dish was a nice take on avo on toast, but not the most impressive. I was, however, spoilt by the fact that there was a heaping of finger limes on this dish! And look. at. that. knifework. If there’s anything about this dish that should have been impossible, it’s the fine knifework on the avocado. Usually if they’re firm enough to be diced as finely as that, they’re not ripe yet. But the flavour here was great. THAT KNIFEWORK. WHAT. It’s soo good I couldn’t stop staring at it!
Fresh cheese and honeycomb
When you’re the first table to reach this dish, and the waitstaff bring out a full, fresh board of honeycomb and scoop a dollop right onto this dish. Now that’s heaven. This was so light and lovely! The beauty of this dish was unmatched as well. It’s so delicate, pretty and fitting!
Who doesn’t love succulent slices of pork to be picked up with fingers and eaten just like that! An amazing piece of meat.
Wallaby Blood Pikelet
Oh this dish. I loved this dish. Not only were these the most adorable petit pikelets ever, they also featured offal! Mmm wallaby blood (which didn’t have a trace of blood flavour at all) laid out delicately on a wallaby themed linen towel. Then there was the recipe! A copy of a handwritten, humorous recipe was also given to us – affectionately titled “Wallaby Pikelets Maaate” to keep. I love souvenirs! And yes of course, this dish was delish.
Tomato and Verjus
I love tomato juice. I love savoury tomato juices. Sadly, having written this about two months after the experience, I’ve forgotten the exact flavour of this juice 🙁
I call this one, Chicken Carrot Taco. Chicken and vegetables in a sheet of carrot, and presented in chicken shaped glassware. How cute and awesome! The aroma that came out of this one was fantastic!
Gazza’s Vegemite Pie
Mmm yes Vegemite! Incorporated into a lamb pie! I couldn’t think of a better combination. Plus being presented on brown paper? That is so much nostalgia of a school canteen when pies were handed out in paper bags. Loved the flavour of this one! It’s actually hard to go wrong with Vegemite (though I’m sure a lot of people would say otherwise!).
Lance Wiffin’s Mussel
I spy karkalla! These were lovely fried morsels of mussel goodness, and the painted shell was a great addition too – it’s a portrait of the mussel farmer himself, painted by a local artist. How cool!
Beef on the Bone
Ah, who doesn’t love beef on the bone. I’ve also forgotten what beef this was. But it was delicious and so tender!
Aromatic Ripponlea Broth
Ah, the lovely Ripponlea broth, made up of 20+ different herbs from the garden at the back. So delicate and light, and it was great trying to taste out each one! I didn’t fare so well, for me the only ones I knew for sure were watercress and fennnel!
And that marked the end of the starters. The wattleseed bread was great, and the butter was great, but the absolute best thing was the macadamia butter (I think) with saltbush! That was absolutely incredible and we ran out of that quickly!
Salted Red Kangaroo and Bunya Bunya
Now the first of the larger courses. This was one I’ve seen before, and is certainly impressive in real life! Such beautiful carrots and really lovely kangaroo tartare! The bunya nut cream was at the bottom, but if anything, I liked the whole nut featured in Noma Australia’s dish better, but who can really compare to Noma, right?
Rooibos and Houjicha
Well, I should start experimenting with tea flavours. Mixing green and white teas is so “safe” as this drink proved to me. Who would have thought the sweetness of rooibos went so well with that earthy, roasty aroma of houjicha!
All Parts of the Pumpkin
I like pumpkin, but not that much. This had an amazing beer foam topping some lovely soft pumpkin and and a healthy dose of pumpkin seeds. I didn’t particularly like this dish (it was too… normal?) since I generally eat enough pumkpin, but my friends really loved this one. I would have preferred potato or cabbage (how cool is a name like 142 days on earth!) dish here.
Red Grape and Coriander
I’m so glad I don’t have the “coriander tastes like soap” gene! This one tasted quite nice, loved the fact that the herb was in it!
Marron with Quandong and Pearl
Oh my goodness. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I saw pictures of this dish with various toppings, and I so desperately wanted it to stay on the menu on my visit. And here it is!!! What a gorgeous half marron! I loved the quandong and pearl mix too, this was just perfect! No nutcrackers here though; the staff said there was nothing under the shell.
My teeth are/were “certified” nutcrackers, so we (yes my friends convinced me to, hence the “we” and ended up being slightly alarmed at the cracking noises from me crushing the shells) ignored the waitstaff’s advice (at our risk! I very much doubt they would be pleased if someone broke a tooth or two!), and I was rewarded with some excellent leg and claw meat. Soooooo good! There were a few other tables that did this too. We ended up with a very cleaned out pile of shell!
Muntries and Grapefruit
Grapefruit juice is so wonderful! It went so well with the marron, and the muntries/quandong combination made the whole thing just work!
For me, it didn’t get more nostalgic than this dish. It was my favourite (okay, so the marron was my favourite but this one has an entirely different reason) not for the flavour (which my friends said was a tad too salty, but for me was borderline and therefore bearable), but rather for the nostalgia. This dish took me straight back to primary school by the sole fact that it was served on a bed of grass. The grass is the very definition of an Australian playground/park – grass, eucaluptus and clovers. It transported me to an entirely different place, and after finishing the food, I continued playing with the grass because that’s what I did as a child. I rummaged though the patch looking for four leave clovers and secretly hoped to find some bindis (those really annoying painful spikey things in the grass that you always ended up stepping or putting your hand on). It was such a tactile experience! I would come back again and again based on just how powerfully memory-invoking this dish was alone.
Cold-smoked Granny Smith Apple
Wow. There’s apple juice, then there’s this. That smokeyness was super intense in an incredible way. It gave it so much more “bite” and mouthfeel, and a lovely smokey aroma that filled the nose, kind of like the smell of bacon – to the point where since it was paired with the egg, was almost like green eggs and ham – yet another reference to my childhood (though I don’t think I ever read the book?). It ended up savoury, tart and sweet at the same time, it was amazing!
Cuppa Tea and Bikkies in the Garden
There was a lovely intermission here, where we were escorted into the little garden past the kitchen. It was mighty cold on that winter’s night, but that’s nothing a good ol’ cuppa can’t fix! I can’t remember what kind of tea it was, but I love tea so it was great. Then there was this cute little crocodile arrowroot biscuit! How adorable! And tasted infinitely better than an Arnott’s milk arrowroot! Another trip down memory lane, that was…
You can also see tulips in the background, which was the purpose of us being here – tulip petals are actually edible (well at least a few varieties)! So here, our role was to pick (and snip) our own tulip for the next dish. My friends nominated me as a tulip picker. so here’s the fancy fellow I chose:
After some magic in the kitchen, here was the first of our lovely desserts! A beautiful striking red, with rhubarb and some lemon myrtle cream. I love tart things (I can thank my Adelaide barista for that!) so I really enjoyed this dish, and I can add another flower to my (non existent) list of edible flowers eaten!
Wild Hibiscus and Davidsonia
If there was one downside, it was that the juice pairing was also quite tart, so the double sour was at the limit of what I could handle. It was delicious though!
Byron Sunrise and Fresh Coconut Cream
We saw chefs plating this dish as we were walking back to our tables after tulip picking, but it wasn’t until it reached our table that we realised just how awesome it actually was. Look at that spiral!! How does it not fall over? What is this sorcery??? It was like the most intricate granny smith apple slinky volcano ever, with a bright red finger lime surprise inside! And the ash on the outside… it was just incredible. The coconut cream was definitely needed to offset all the acidity!
Native Tamarind, Pineapple and Vanilla
And of course, pineapple is the other half of coconut while being on the same sour strain to tie in with the finger limes. Such genius! Again, the only downside was all the sour. I could handle it, but my friends couldn’t, so I did end up finishing their juices for them.
When one is offered coffee at a Melbourne fine dining restaurant not sponsored by Vittoria, one says yes to the coffee. And it was a cold brew! (They don’t do espresso.) It was very lovely even though I don’t have a particular fondness for cold brew. And even though my palate isn’t calibrated for this stuff, I still took a pretty good guess at the coffee – always have to flex those tastebuds! I guessed “South America, not roasted by Seven Seeds”. I believe my guess was Colombia, but the actual coffee was a Brazil, roasted by Proud Mary. Hey, that’s pretty close! I was so proud of myself and I think I surprised my friends with that!
Nothing beats this set of petit fours. Chef’s tales, a take on Fantales. And the wrappers were so fun to read! There was that mystifying moment again when I guessed the chefs (not by name, but could describe exactly which chef it was) when my friends read out the descriptions.
Slight spoiler alert ahead!
My one was Rosia Sanchez, and I guessed it as “the lady who runs Hija de Sanchez” as soon as I read the line “I quit my job as pastry chef at one of the world’s best restaurants… I wanted to bring good, humble Mexican food”. I also guessed Christina Tosi as “the person who invented the Momofuku crack pie” as soon as I heard “I eat cookie dough every day” and the launch of Milk Bar. My friends were amazed! Too bad it’s the only sort of trivia that lives in my head.
End spoiler alert!
Attica was such an amazing experience. I’m so happy that there are so many places that use native Australian ingredients now that I don’t feel that getting this stuff is few and far between anymore – which is great! It means that I tie this place, Noma Australia, and Orana as the same class of restaurants. All of these are such great representations of modern Australian cuisine!