So I finally made it to Ben Shewry's gastrotemple of the southeast. Mrs_G and I went on a Saturday night we booked a few months ago - I was going to move it as I was flying out the following morning but the Saturday booking time is about four months so we decided to take our existing booking. Attica and Quay are the only restaurants in the global Top 50 list. It has three hats as of this year in the GFG.
The restaurant is on a shopping strip in suburban Ripponlea, opposite a mens hairdresser and a bustling Indian dhaba and surrounded by froufrou clothes shops. A bit different from a few weeks ago at Quay. This is your first hint that it's all about the chef and the food.
It's 8 course degustation only on Friday and Saturday. On other nights, there's a shorter 5 course menu and Tuesday night is chef's tryout night. We got bread and drinks, and then a decision on food and wine - due to me driving, I decided for a couple of tastes of wine rather than the full matching.
Eight courses followed. It was quite shellfish heavy (three dishes) and Mrs_G, who doesn't eat shellfish, had more substitutions than usual. Some of them were more succesful than others. The dish introductions gave another insight into cheffyness: a starter of snow crab with horseradish snow was apparently inspired by a mountain in New Zealand, and a dessert by the Franz Josef glacier. Despite this pretension, the serving staff were friendly and polite - we liked our server.
All the courses were imaginative, and without listing them out most were good to very good. Standouts for me were the signature potato cooked in its own earth, and a dish of pork belly with pearl oyster meat. The worst course for both of us was a slightly bizarre dessert of Australian bush fruits, none of which I liked. As it was the last course, it stuck in my mind (and gullet). An abysmal dish. Wine pairings I tried were well selected.
Rating it is quite hard. It is definitely in the top handful of Victorian restaurants. It has touches of pretension and is obviously chef run. Service is smart, and its obviously an 'event' destination. The food price is pretty good for this level of food, but the wine match is very well priced. The location doesn't have much of a view, and the fitout is sleek but functional - it reminded me of Marque. But to me it didn't have the combined wow factor of Quay or Loam - I'm pleased I went, and enjoyed it, but it hasn't made my must return list.