Review: Attica Summer Camp pop-up at Lillydale Estate

The Attica team have built a breezy and brilliant dining experience in bucolic Seville.
The Attica team have built a breezy and brilliant dining experience in bucolic Seville.  Photo: Simon Schluter

Greetings campers, and welcome to orientation. Those carrying childhood trauma about wedgies and war cries may leave them at the gate. Attica Summer Camp, the low-key, all-welcoming regional pop-up from Ben Shewry's three-hat Ripponlea fine diner, is serving generous gulps of the great outdoors, modest serves of sunscreen and the sweet waft of cooking smoke out here in Seville.

Those who followed Attica's eventful and inspiring journey through COVID-19 last year will appreciate the Attica-with-its-hair-down energy of this five-month pop-up at a winery in the Yarra Valley.

When lockdowns led to layoffs across the industry, Shewry and partner Kylie Staddon went to war. Attica became a bakery, pottery and lasagne delivery service. They sold birthday cakes, threw a live gig with the Avalanches and offered take-home menus designed by their multi-cultural chefs. The result? No worker was left behind. And Attica reached a far greater audience.

Proud focaccia comes with a selection of condiments such as anchovies and cured tomatoes.
Proud focaccia comes with a selection of condiments such as anchovies and cured tomatoes.  Photo: Simon Schluter

Cue a low-key, a la carte version of Attica that holds to its principles in its dishes but is also an accessible option for freshly minted fans. And what a hell of a boon for followers of Attica, new and old.

A drive through frothy meadows terminates at an open-walled dining pavilion on the lovely Lillydale Estate. Tones are light and calm – creams and blond timber and a sunny yellow-striped cocktail bar that Shewry built from scratch.

From here, the party in your glass might be a friesling (frozen riesling), cocktails starring local Four Pillars gin, or a crunchy booze-less beer by First Nations-owned Queensland company Sobah, infused with finger lime.

Charred onion and blue cheese.
Charred onion and blue cheese.  Photo: Simon Schluter

It would be a mistake to assume a laid-back, pop-up version of Attica would be anything but outrageously meticulous. Details, such as the large frog mural saying "Hi how are you", pays homage to original artwork in Austin, Texas, by recently deceased musician Daniel Johnston, whose songs strike Shewry in the heart. Besides the prominent grill on view in the dining space, a newly installed kitchen is bigger than Attica's. There is a special oven just for one temperamental cake.

This is also a menu of depth. Taken a la carte, it might seem a slightly disparate collection of elements. Scotch eggs meet Med-leaning dishes such as a plate of cured tomatoes draped in good anchovies (one of many small snacks designed to luxuriate over proud focaccia), with meat dishes ranging from burru (kangaroo) skewers to lamb with garlic yoghurt. But a practised eye will see the Attica threads of storytelling, sustainability and respect for the origin of ingredients woven through.

That love of the local is in a young, fresh, fine-skinned cow's milk Galactic cheese from Stone and Crow, which does a tangy little dance with sweet crab apple jelly.

Advertisement

Ramarro farm, organic produce star of the Yarra Valley, supplies green chillies, green tomatoes and green tomatillos – which form the two-part rough-cut and smooth soup saga (one side gently cooked with olive oil, the other featuring bright peas, spring onions and yoghurt bringing a fresh hit).

Choice is almost a burden here. That green soup belies its star status beside more insistent offerings like the chicken parfait and cherries, shavings of pork pastrami and hot sauce, or the glamour of a whole baby abalone grilled in its shell. But this is a menu where rewards lurk on the fringe.

Hasselback potatoes (named for the technique of cutting fine gills into the tuber) are having a pop-culture moment, and Attica's Blue Moon potatoes, spiralled and rotated over the coals, are crinkly-edged wonders.

Burru (kangaroo) skewer with local river mint.
Burru (kangaroo) skewer with local river mint. Photo: Simon Schluter

But the whole onion that has been aggressively charred to a black-crusted death star with a sweet heart of gold, then topped with a scoop of whipped blue cheese is the real knee-trembler.

The burru skewer, its richness slashed by a marinade containing apple vinegar and river mint, seems more on-brand with flagship Attica, but the lamb kebab is one of the restaurant's backyard breakouts.

Whichever way you flow, it's hard to go wrong. You'll just want to go back.

The dessert trolley is a weapon of mass destruction.
The dessert trolley is a weapon of mass destruction. Photo: Simon Schluter

That desire becomes all but inevitable when Attica Summer Camp's pastry chef Rosemary Andrews wheels out a dessert trolley that is a weapon of mass destruction.

It's the ultimate minefield of citrus tart laced with lemon verbena, simple Santa Claus melon compressed with Four Pillars Gin and a finicky sponge, which Shewry says he worked on for weeks in lockdown, and is so temperamental and ethereal it needs its own oven.

Layered with fresh cream and pouting raspberries, it's a signature sign-off – easy-eating, expert execution from some of the best in the game.

The low-down

Address 45 Davross Court, Seville, attica.com.au/summer-camp.

Open Thu-Mon 11am-11pm

Drinks Mostly local options, from Four Pillars gin cocktails to Mac Forbes wines plus non-alcoholic options like Sobah beers

Pro tip Weather-dependant, walk-ins are welcome for snacks and drinks in the pergola

Cost Snacks $10-$18; larger dishes $17-$65 (shared)

Score 15/20