By Ben Shewry
New Zealander Ben Shewry serves up his take on modern Australian cuisine at Attica in Melbourne, named the best restaurant in Australasia and ranked 20th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2018. The chef uses fresh and often unusual local ingredients in dishes such as black ant lamington (a sponge cake).
My favourite view is from the “mountain” on the Rippon Lea Estate. There is a bench at the top of this large man-made hill in the 19th-century estate that overlooks a beautiful lake. Our kitchen gardens are on this 14-acre property and many times in the past 10 years I have taken a quiet moment to sit on the hill and look at my favourite indigenous trees there — the majestic bunya-bunya and illawarra plum pines, both of which provide ingredients for Attica.
Where to live — south side
Melbourne is divided into the south side and the north side; generally people live on one and are pretty loyal to that side. I’m definitely a southsider. When I moved here in 2002 from Taranaki in New Zealand, I spent a week skateboarding round the suburbs of Prahran, St Kilda and Elwood. My memories of the diversity in those places have stuck with me and I have stayed close by the whole time I’ve been here.
I live in Elsternwick, which is a 10-minute walk from Attica and a further 15-minute walk from St Kilda. While Elsternwick might not have the buzz and large cross-section of Australian life that St Kilda does, it is beautifully quiet, and after a long day at the noisy restaurant that I run it is bliss.
Where to eat dinner
Ronnie Di Stasio is a legend in Melbourne. He has seen every trend and change St Kilda has been through, yet remains constant and relevant. Café Di Stasio in St Kilda is a haven of culture where the service, headed by Mallory Wall, is always big-hearted, the drinks are always flowing, and the Italian food has integrity: the most south side of Melbourne restaurants.
Where to drink cocktails
I am crossing over to the north side for this one, but it is worth it. Grau Projekt is new and innovative for Melbourne, brought to us by constant thinker Matt Bax. Grau Projekt has Melbourne’s best cocktails served from a human vending machine — you place your token on a silver tray, press the button for the drink you want and a white-gloved hand takes the token and replaces it with the cocktail. All this is combined with a gloriously big contemporary art space. Bax’s first exhibition, titled Cock Rocker, was a triumph, and future exhibitions looks to be just as promising.
Where to discover culture
The Koorie Heritage Trust is a brilliant place to learn about the diversity of the Aboriginal people of south-east Australia. The trust holds the only public collection in Victoria dedicated solely to Koorie art and culture. It also stages exhibitions that showcase the many styles of Aboriginal art from this region. It has a lovely gift store where you can purchase art and support Koorie artists directly.
Where to run
Bayside Melbourne is fortunate to have fabulous walking, running and cycling paths along its coastline from Port Melbourne to Mordialloc. I love running and cycling in this part of the world and it makes living in a big city much more bearable. On my route along the Elwood-Brighton foreshore, I have views of Port Phillip Bay as I run south and the city skyline as I run northward home.
Where to be outdoors
Mount Buller, a three-hour drive north-east of Melbourne, is where I spend as many days in winter snowboarding as I can. Most people who are new to the state do not realise we have great skiing on our doorstep. It is a lovely drive if you take the route through the Yarra valley. Don’t forget to buy hot doughnuts from the hidden shop under the main staircase at Buller that leads up to the ticket office.
Where to enjoy music
As an avid record collector, a favourite part of Melbourne for me is the music scene. Melbourne’s independent record stores are plentiful and world class. Some amazing recommendations and knowledge of music and life can be gained through conversations in these stores. Another side of this is the live music scene — The Tote Hotel, Hotel Esplanade (The Espy to locals) and the Corner Hotel are my favourite venues. St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, which was founded in Melbourne, is the best music festival in Australia.
Photographs: Shara Henderson; Getty Images/iStockphoto; Simon Strong; Nils Versemann; Alamy