An ostensibly humble lamington has earned special mention as the standout dish at Attica, the suburban Melbourne restaurant belonging to chef-owner Ben Shewry that earlier today was declared the best restaurant in Australasia at The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards ceremony in Bilbao, Spain.

But like everything that Shewry turns his attention to at Attica, the New Zealand expat’s take on the iconic Australian dessert isn’t a simple sponge rolled in chocolate sauce and desiccated coconut. Concealed within Shewry’s lamington is a duet of rainforest lychee and pepperberry milk sorbet; on the outside, it’s coated in spicy black ants.

The chef’s clear reverence for often overlooked native produce –  think ants, bunya nuts, yam daisy or marron over foie gras, caviar and lobster – has seen Attica, fine diner in the suburb of Ripponlea, climb the global hotlist 12 places to be named the region’s best restaurant and the 20th Best Restaurant in the World. It’s the highest the restaurant has ranked on the list since it made its debut in 2013 at No.21. Other dishes from Shewry and his team (several members of which were in Bilbao for the ceremony) to receive notable mention include the ‘Whipped Emu Egg’ served inside its open eggshell, as well as the ‘Red Kangaroo with Truganini’ and the ‘Marron Wrapped in Kelp’ (all feature in the gallery above).

The awards, which are both highly coveted and divisive, have been compiled every year since 2002 using the votes of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, a reputable group of 1,040 industry experts from 27 global regions. Each region is represented by 36 members who are allocated 10 votes (four of which must go to restaurants outside of their region). The judging panel is made up of critics, chefs, restauranteurs and ‘gastronomes’, with their combined opinions forming the industry standard for the world’s finest dining establishments and most exciting up-and-comers, cuisines and culinary movements.

Despite the millions of dollars spent bringing the Academy members out to Australia where last year’s ceremony was staged, only one other Australian restaurant garnered a mention on the second half of the list of those establishments ranked from 51-100. Brae, the Birregurra restaurant and guesthouse of chef and owner Dan Hunter, reentered the list at 58 after last year making its first entry into the Top 50 at No.44. The year before it made a jump up the list of 21 places from being ranked at No.65 previously. Since it opened in December 2013, Brae has taken pride of place on Hunter’s 30 acre farm in the Otway hinterland, from which he harvests produce in a fashion that privileges, above all, a respect for seasonality, regenerative farming techniques and sustainability.

The number one spot on the list has been reclaimed by the Italian chef and restaurateur, Massimo Bottura, whose Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana in the Emilia-Romagna region has once again been named the No.1 Restaurant in the World, if only according to the list. Osteria Francescana topped The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016, and was named No.2 in 2017, losing out that year to New York’s Eleven Madison Park, which this year was named No.4 after closing for renovations during the voting period.

Tile and cover image: Colin Page/Courtesy of Attica