Tag Archives: modern Australian cuisine

oh Attica


I dined there a few weeks ago. But how to do the place justice in words? It’s a fair quandary.

gorgeous knife

This trip had been years in the making. I first met my future husband Derek at a former place of employment who decided not to take me back after a bout of serious illness. The place was horrible and it was only because of the number of fantastic creatives there, ekeing out a living, that made it bearable. I don’t remember how but Derek and I would have become friends over the simple phrase “What are you reading?”

We’ve remained friends ever since. I jokingly refer to him as my future husband because if we did get married, our book and music collection would be fantastic. It was he who first told me of Attica’s existence and that he longed to dine there, matched wines and all.

So we did it, one Friday night when only the degustation is available. What took us so long, I don’t know. When I arrived, Derek was enjoying a gin and tonic and Tris a beer. I had a gin and tonic too (for some reason, they didn’t ask me what gin I wanted and I got Bombay Sapphire, harumph. I prefer Tanqueray in G&Ts). After realising our other dining partner wasn’t going to show up, we indicated we were ready to begin and so condiments and bread appeared.

cured butter & olive oil emulsion

House cured butter and this olive oil emulsion which looked like it had the consistency of chocolate mousse, but was very soft and aerated. We had the choice of sourdough or rye bread to use up these curious condiments.

That was just bread and condiments! The degustation proper still hadn’t begun and we were brought out a carrot appetiser. So teensy, and reminiscent of a carrot salad had at Cutler & Co’s degustation, but infinitely better. Seriously, I reiterate: this is just the appetiser, folks!


The first course in the degustation was the snow crab – imagine a pile of fluffy white ‘snow’ in front of you with crab lurking beneath. How do they make such dreamy, ethereal stuff? Derek had chosen to have the matched wines and graciously provided both myself and Tris with a sip (he did this with all the matched wines, bless his soul). The wine served with this course was the Silver Wings ‘Macedon noir’ Brut rose NV.

snow crab

The next dish was osmanthus and chrysanthemum broth with abalone and cuttlefish. The broth is more like Chinese osmanthus and chrysanthemum tea, both of which I’ve drunk before. A very delicate floral taste. The dish is presented to you sans broth, but then poured in gently at your table from a beaker that would look at home in a chemistry lab. It was matched with a Henrique and Henriques 5 year old NV madeira.

osmanthus & chrysanthemum broth, abalone, cuttlefish

The third dish made some interesting claims with its given title – ‘a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown’. Indeed, the potato is a humble vegetable. An industry friend of mine attempted to give me ‘insider’ information on the origins of this dish (specifically, the potatoes used) but to no avail: I continue to this day to be impressed by it. Derek one-upped both Tris and I and elected to pay extra to get the Manjimup truffle supplement – two people come up to your table and hand grate the truffle over your potato in quite the vigorous manner! I was worried they’d be stingy but it was quite the opposite. I love how the potato gleams in an almost desserty way.

All three of us had a glass of the matched beverage – the Eric Bordelet poire granit cider from Normandy. It set off the earthiness and rustic appeal of the dish wonderfully. Yes, potatoes and perry sounds like an odd match, but it worked!

a simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown

To my (neophyte) palate, one of the hallmarks of a good chef is someone who can make you raise your eyebrow at an unusual pairing of flavours but have you on board with the first mouthful. The following dish of bass groper with almond and garlic is an excellent example. Almonds, really? Not something I think of going with fish and yet, what a welcome experience, for your tastebuds to disagree with your preconceptions. For accompanying wine there was the Allies ‘Garagiste’ chardonnay 2008 vintage – possibly my favourite matching.

bass groper, almonds, garlic

Feed the men meat! Oh wait, here we are. In dainty morsel-sized portions too – this was lamb and mushrooms roasted over wood with sauce of forbs. I had to check out Melbourne Gastronome’s post to find out what forbs was. I loved the mysterious balls rolled in something that seemed like toasted mustard seeds. Again, Claire’s post proved highly educational on that front too. The mushrooms were crazy and one of them I found a little odd and not quite to my liking, but the meat! Perfect. There were whispers of ‘sous-vide’ on our table. This course was matched with the Barone Ricasoli ‘Brolio’ chianti classico 2007 vintage.

lamb, mushrooms roasted over wood, sauce of forbs

The beef, seagrass and white cabbage was not as nice – I found my meat a little chewy. The white cabbage reminded me of parsnip, oddly enough. The potato was amazing – you can see it’s almost charred black despite being cooked using different methods. This course was matched with the Enigma ‘Variations’ syrah 2007 vintage.

beef, seagrass, white cabbage

I confess that I had absolutely no idea what terroir was – I thought it was a term used to describe the earth in which wine grapes grew? When the said dish arrived, we were all further perplexed. We were told that there was beetroot, avocado and clover. I tasted berries too. Again, another dish that tested preconceptions prior to tasting. It was such a complex mix of flavours and textures. What I remember most vividly is grassy and sour tartness with a slight savoury background. But was it ice, or soil or cake crumbs we were eating? I think it was all those things! See what lurks below! I cannot remember a thing about the Braida Brachetto 2008 vintage – my brain was too busy trying to interpret and decode things going on in my mouth!


Of course when we were ready for the final dish of apple, olive and warm shredded wheat the words “ooh! An apple crumble!” came to mind. By now we had come to expect that it would definitely be out of the ordinary and were correct. I was quite starstruck when Ben Shewry, the head chef himself came out to lovingly spoon the wheat onto the apple. He told us that these crumbles of sorts use three apples each. Throughout the night, I’d found the wait staff fairly glacial which was a stark contrast to Ben and his earnestness and warmth. I wish I could have said more to him but I was far too shy. The matched alcoholic beverage was the Bernadins muscat beaumes de Venise 2008 – it smelled much sweeter than it tasted and was a polite complement.

apple, olive, warm shredded wheat

But not quite finished just yet! I got some wonderfully aromatic Earl Grey tea and the lads had coffees. To signal the end of the meal, we were presented with decadent petits fours. Very special chocolate fudge-type things!

petite fours

The only reason I’m not infatuated with my experience here is the service wasn’t as polished as it could be: admittedly due to one of our party not arriving we started an hour late but there were still other diners when we were finishing up but they practically whisked us out the door brusquely (or at least, the lady attempting to help me into my jacket did). However, the food…where on earth (or at least in Melbourne!) could one go for such unique cuisine? Perhaps this is what led San Pellegrino to nominate Attica as one of its top one hundred restaurants in the world.

Part of the charm and appeal of the dishes served here as part of the degustation is that they are not entirely ‘finished’ in terms of preparation when they are put before you. You either have to mix or wait for something to be sprinkled or poured before it’s truly ready. I think it helps the diner feel a little more connected to their meal and more involved. I know folks at the moment are all about edible snow because of *that* cooking show, so you have no excuse to not be hitting up this establishment. Besides, my write-up hasn’t done it justice but perhaps that’s just my evil ploy to get you to check it out yourself.

Attica on Urbanspoon

Saturday night dining at Cumulus

My Bit O’ Meat is a kind lad. It was his father’s birthday recently so he wanted to treat both father and his stepmother to a really lovely meal out in the city. But where to go? Everywhere we were all initially keen on was booked out, so we had a shot at this ‘no bookings for fewer than x‘ caper and tried to hit up Cumulus in Flinders Lane in the city.

chefs at work

To say it was packed was an understatement. We put our names at the door and tried to find elsewhere. Mamasita had a line all the way down the stairs so we drank some poor examples of cocktails at Terra Rossa (my Long Island Iced Tea neither looked the colour of iced tea nor tasted alcoholic. Never again!) and waited. Over an hour later, and we’re in Cumulus and I have a Tom Collins in my hand – a distinct improvement on Terra Rossa’s cocktail ‘renditions’.

Communal dining is definitely the order of the day at this place. Everything we ordered was shareable except perhaps the nettle and scallop soup though the two of us that ordered it shared it with our other halves. It comes in a large glass tumbler which you drink it out of. My first time eating nettles – I’d only just learnt that they were edible. Chef Andrew McConnell shares his recipe for it on Broadsheet if you fancy trying to make it at home!

nettle soup, hervey bay scallop

S chose the crispy school prawns which were just divine in their light batter and hint of chilli. The prawns are so young that you can eat their shells. Amazing!

crispy school prawns sautéed with chilli and garlic

T chose a dish him and I had had the pleasure of enjoying at Cutler & Co. that he thought his parents would love – the slow cooked octopus with aioli and dehydrated olive. Such pleasing morsels. Don’t be shy to mop up the remaining oil with your choice or rye or sourdough bread either…I wasn’t!

slow cooked octopus with aioli, dehydrated olive

Not quite onto mains proper, we moved up to bigger shareable things – the first of which was foie gras parfait with toasted brioche.

foie gras parfait with toasted brioche

Someone I know who works in the hospitality industry has told me that at Cutler & Co. (and thus also at Cumulus), they use very little foie gras in their dishes which contain them. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t really dampen my enjoyment of such dishes.

The next dish chosen was the pressed chicken terrine with English cream dressing and breakfast radishes. The dressing was delightful and complemented the terrine wonderfully with its crunch and sourness.

pressed chicken terrine, english creamdressing & breakfast radishes

Onto my absolute favourite dish of the evening – the tuna tartare with a crushed pea salad. I could eat this as a main all by itself, by myself! Dishes like this ensure I could never, ever give up seafood. The accompanying peas could also probably cure you of your childhood hatred for them.

tuna tartare with crushed green pea salad

Finally, we’re at the main – the humble roast: a whole roast lamb shoulder to share. Given the amount of dishes we’d had previously, I’d say this could easily feed six people or an extremely ravenous quartet. Thankfully the lads on the table were roast smashers. S said this was the best roast she’d ever had in her life!

T and I had successfully rationed our glasses of the Romante ‘Regente’ palo cortado (again, had at Cutler & Co. and jumped on it as soon as we saw it on the wine list here) up to this point. After consultation with the waiter, we had a glass each of a beautiful lush red whose name escapes me and I cannot find it on the restaurant’s website as they do not list the wines available by the glass.

whole slow roast lamb shoulder to share

Of course we had some sides – the green bean salad with Ortiz anchovies and mustard dressing (which both parentals said was their favourite thing for the whole night), and some new potatoes with confit garlic and lemon.

green bean salad with Ortiz anchovies and mustard dressing

new potatoes, savoury, confit garlic & lemon

Despite being suitably fed by our savoury courses, space was made for dessert. Both S and I had two lemon curd filled madeleines each. You have to be careful how you hold these or the lemon curd will leak out. Both Proust and Freud I’m sure would have a field day with these…

madeleine, filled with lemon curd

T had the mandarin parfait with almond cake and soft chocolate. He let me have a little to taste and I confess that it wasn’t particularly exciting.

mandarin parfait, almond cake and soft chocolate

If I’d had real space, I would have done like the birthday celebrant and ordered cheese for afters – he chose the Spanish bleu des Basques sheep’s milk blue cheese.

bleu des basques sheep's milk blue cheese from spain

Of late both my parents and T’s parents have railed on us for our extravagant, hedonistic food blogger wankster ways (more than fair call!) and after taking one set of the haters to Cumulus, we have partial converts. Cumulus serves special yet approachable dishes and is casual but still retains a sense of finesse in its outfit. Busy as almighty fuck on the nights everyone loves to go out, so be prepared for a wait and don’t expect to go in for a traditional three-course à la carte experience – orders loads of dishes and share with your fellow diners, it’s fabulous fun.

Cumulus Inc. on Urbanspoon

breakfast burrito hunt: it begins!

Over the weekend, I was inducted into a breakfast burrito club. I don’t get to have burritos all that often, and never for breakfast, so I hauled my arse out of bed and ventured to that odd part of Melbourne south of the river.

My host was @palegoldenrod, an all-round awesome girl – she travels, she slacklines, she builds catapult prototypes out of confectionery (no, really. I’m hoping to report on that in the future).

The venue was Yellow Bird on Chapel Street, thankfully a good distance away from Borders and the MAC pro store. There were many in attendance and we cheerfully huddled on the benches that bit our arses (they’re a bit…spiky). Good thing the rest of the crew was very friendly, hee hee.

Everyone who ordered food went the burrito though many of us had variations – no bacon, no egg and such. I went for the default breakfast burrito – everything please!

breakfast burrito

It’s not too shabby – comes with a generous dollop of sour cream, the bacon is those nice thick slices (the dearer ones at the supermarket…mmm) but perhaps would have liked my egg a bit more scrambled. @palegoldenrod said it wasn’t their best one.

For some odd reason they’d run out of freshly squeezed orange juice (at 10.30am? really?) so I had not one but two delicious chai lattes. Service is a little haphazard, but it’s a decent brunch spot. Shame I couldn’t order a Little Creatures limited edition brown ale due to how early it was…even though, as you know, I’ve had beer with breakfast before.

Still, I heard from the fellow breakfast burrito-lovers present that there other places out there doing them.

Let the hunt begin!

Yellow Bird Cafe on Urbanspoon