Ben Shewry

Raised on a farm in rural New Zealand, Ben Shewry grew up surrounded by nature. This respect for the land informs the deeply personal food served at lauded Melbourne fine diner Attica: as much the story of Shewry’s own life as well as the ingredients both new and old of his adopted country. One of Australia’s most prominent figures on the world cooking stage, this self-described “emo-chef” is regarded as one of the good guys and is a vocal advocate for change in the industry.

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Not Your Typical Australian Bowls Club

I’m almost hesitant to share this one – I’ve been guarding it with my life, but the world needs more places like the Lorne Bowls Club. It’s a completely unknown place. You’re actually the first person I’ve told about it. I feel like if I recommend it too much, I’m not going to be able to go back there – like, I’d never be able to get a table.

Lorne is a beautiful 90 minute drive from the centre of Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. It’s a beautiful, natural environment and one of the premier summer beach destinations in Victoria. There’s a caravan park, a main street of restaurants, resort stuff. There’s also a lot of tourists, so it can often lack a sense of community. Last time I went, I discovered the bowls club.

It’s very much like your typical Australian bowls club – but there’s a person in the kitchen cooking the most amazing food. Like really elevated home cooking. The chef’s name is Luke and he’s older, probably in his 50s, and he’s a really philosophical guy, a really deep thinker.

There’s just such a good energy there. It’s very home-style, so there’s a chalkboard menu and you order up at the counter. It’s super affordable, but it’s all local ingredients, like beef from the local farm. And the food is super delicious, but it also feels good for you. It’s a very organic feeling. For dessert there’s a little table that has five different cakes and tarts on it, and it’s so beautiful; like it’s coming from an older time.

This is a real exceptional experience, particularly ethically. When I went there, it was a couple of days after Australia Day, and there were hand-made Aboriginal flags inside the restaurant – he’d actually made these Aboriginal flags himself. That kind of acknowledgement, that’s pretty rare in those communities. It’s also pretty rare to go somewhere and just know, to see, that ethically the place is just excellent.

He only employs young people from the community, and they tend to be people that he can help, and kind of be a mentor for them. After we finished our meal, we were walking out of the dining room, and the staff had finished service for the night and had sat down around the table. They had cooked this amazing food and were sitting around having this wonderful meal. It’s so rare to see that in a restaurant.

My Obsession With Fried Rice

I have a fried rice obsession. When I was 16, I did work experience in a restaurant in my hometown, and it was run by this guy who was kind of a hard ass. He had employed a Malaysian cook, and she was amazing, but she kind of got treated like shit. Nobody was allowed to eat any of the food there, at all, so no staff meals. Nothing. She had fried rice on the menu and she would make it every day, and sneakily put it upstairs in the store room where you could find it, and it was just so delicious. It really blew me away. This was really the beginning of my lifelong infatuation with fried rice.

Really great fried rice almost has a succulence about it, there’s a kind of moreish, deep, satisfying flavour about it. Eating fried rice is my soul food.

Flower Drum’s fried rice is pretty good. Flower Drum in general is a pretty amazing restaurant, and one of the world’s greatest restaurants. Anthony Lui has been a chef for 35 years, he’s like a hero to me, and his family are just amazing. His son is on the floor. They are absolute legends. They don’t get the credit they deserve. The fried rice is wonderful there.

The Best Souvlaki I’ve Ever Eaten

Kalimera is a place that I’ve talked about quite a bit, but I think it really deserves the attention. It’s a restaurant of recent Greek migrants. They have a wonderful story, and they’re just exceptional people with incredible passion.

Kalimera is a bit off the beaten path. You’re not going to see it in food guides, or on the tourist map. It’s in an area called Oakley, where a lot of Greek people have settled in Australia. There are so many souvlaki places there, you can almost smell the meat cooking over charcoal in the neighbourhood. But Kalimera have the best souvlaki I’ve ever eaten in Australia, and I don’t think that it would be rivalled.

It’s always really busy, and it’s very, very affordable. You can get a souvlaki for $8, or a platter of meat with salad, flat bread and delicious tzatziki for $15. It’s definitely a long-time favourite.

Australian Heart & Old-School Italian Soul

Restauranteur Rinaldo Di Stasio is a legend of Melbourne hospitality, and he’s just created what I think is a restaurant that could stand strong for the next 50 years.

Di Stasio Citta is more than a restaurant, it’s like going to an art gallery. It’s exceptionally special. Rinaldo is an emotional man, and you can feel that through the passion in this restaurant. He’s created a space with amazing Australian heart, and old-school proper Italian service. 

There’s a collection of around 50 important Australian works of art throughout the restaurant, including film, and there’s also artwork on the outside of the building. It’s just so punk. Works from artists like Reko Rennie, an Australian Aboriginal artist and one of the leading contemporary artists in Australia, are there for us to enjoy. I just think it’s so telling that Rinaldo has invested in this huge collection of indigenous art. It’s like his gift to the community. And it’s just something unlikely to happen from a white Australian. I hate to say it, but that’s the truth.

It’s not an elitist thing at all. You don’t need to be rich to go there and experience it. You can go and sit at the bar and have a beer in this beautiful environment and look at these works – for free.

Putting aside all of the art and philosophical aspects, I went there two months ago for the first time and ate the best Bolognese I’ve ever had in my life, and I’m really passionate about Bolognese. I don’t proclaim to be a master at cooking it, but this just blew me away. Do you know how hard it is to blow someone away with Bolognese? I can blow someone away with an ingredient that they’ve never seen before. That’s easy. But to blow someone away with something so familiar, something that’s a family dish, and has been a part of their life. Now that is cool, and that’s what they did.

Guide last updated August 2019

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