It’s Australia’s ultimate showdown: Attica versus Brae. Our two entries on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list are thrown into the ring for the knockdown decider. Larissa Dubecki lets you be the judge...
At No. 32 in its fifth year on the W50B list, Attica lurks unobtrusively on an inner-suburban Melbourne street. A recent makeover, complete with flame-scorched wood panelling, has turned it into the very model of the smart mod Oz restaurant.
Debuting on the W50B list at No. 44, Brae is housed in a revamped farmhouse in the Otway hinterland, 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne. Warning: it’s so Scandi chic, it’s guaranteed to spark tree-change reveries.
New Zealander Ben Shewry worked under Melbourne chefs of note Michael Lambie and Andrew McConnell before starting as head chef at then-unsung Attica in 2005 while going through his experimental Thai phase.
Dan Hunter started as a dishwasher in Melbourne’s Fitzroy and eventually became head chef at Spain’s acclaimed Mugaritz before coming home and putting Dunkeld’s Royal Mail Hotel on the map.
The extended dégustation menu ($275 per person) uses a whole host of obscure native ingredients and dishes up W50B-worthy takes on smashed avocado and lamb-and-Vegemite pie. The pearl meat cooked in paperbark is the signature dish.
The sophisticated but unfussy menu ($240 per person) is micro-regionally obsessed – based on the incredible produce of the Otways. The dessert of fried parsnip skin and parsnip-and-apple mousse is the standout.
They usher you out to the courtyard for billy tea and a jam doughnut by the fire before the dessert course.
You’re encouraged to take a wander around the farm between courses.
The take-home factor
Attica sends you off into the night with giant Fantales – the chewy choc-coated caramels – rebadged as Cheftales with cheffy trivia printed on the wrapper.
Brae makes a keepsake of your menu, complete with your drink selections, printed on its bucolic stationery. We think you should fork out for Dan Hunter’s beautiful book, Brae: Recipes and Stories from the Restaurant.
Top image: Attica