Attica is different to anything you’d expect. Apart from bright splashes of colour near the bathrooms, a nod to the space’s previous incarnation as a Thai restaurant, Attica has an incredibly sombre, funereal interior. The ambience of the restaurant seems at odds with the inventive, fresh, bright cuisine. Of course, the focus should not be on the décor. Instead, it is the ‘hand foraged’ ingredients which steal the show. They are utilised cleverly, resulting in creative dishes that are near perfectly executed.
In line with its low key design, the restaurant did not seem prohibitive to the general public. It is not reserved solely for the wealthy and elite. Having said that, you do have to book a month or two in advance!
The five courses were unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. They were much less predictable than your average fine dining degustation. The food was less concerned with being flashy and well presented than with bringing out the true flavour of the various elements.
We started with diced squid and hand picked snow peas which sat atop a squid ink and potato puree. Whilst not the most pleasant sounding dish on paper, the peas tasted sweet and the dish was crisp. This set the tone for the whole meal: fresh ingredients, given time to shine.
The carrots were cooked in a hangi style kitchen assemblage with buttermilk and mustard oil. This was relatively simple, slow cooked carrots cooked between sheets of cloth and earth.
The next course was a piece of kumara with asparagus tops surrounded by a cream sauce. A semi-cooked egg yolk was placed on one side to give the overall appearance of an egg (cream sauce surrounding an egg yolk in a round bowl).
Rare beef was then served with basil and a chorizo and tomato consommé. The consommé was poured slowly over the beef by the waiter. This really excited the lady across from us who insisted on filming it on her smart phone.
As is well documented Shewry aims to invoke a particular feeling and insight into where the food came from or memories of another time. He succeeds at this, as consuming his food is a poetic, sensual, visceral experience that has you thinking. Believe it or not, the beef and tomato flavour combination was quite evocative of a classic family barbecue which is something most high end food doesn’t necessarily do. You don’t often make connections with your own history – a steak at taxi dining room, might link you back to a steak you had elsewhere at some point in time.
The dessert course was an unexpected and ingenious blend of ‘house dried’ raisins, hazelnut jelly and fig leaf cheese. Whilst not the most satisfying end to a meal, it was different and the hazelnut jelly was intriguing.
Attica definitely pushed my previous perceptions of culinary style and flavour. I would readily return, and look forward to one of the tried and true degustation nights. It represents substance over style in a sense, accessibility over prestige, highlighting the humility of head Chef Ben Shewry, who could no doubt open a world class Crown Casino behemoth which he would not actually suit at all.
Don’t go. Try it. Must go.