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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lunch @ The Press Club

You could be excused in thinking only one restaurant has recently opened it's doors in Melbourne. With all the hubbub about Fifteen and the resulting media circus, another much anticipated (by us at least) restaurant quietly opened on the 8th.

The Press Club marks George Calombaris return to the helm of his own kitchen - situated at the corner of Flinders and Russell Streets - in the old Herald-Sun building.


It's not quite a finished work - the restaurant itself is finished but the neighbouring bar is not. Though it seems it should be coming online next week.


We begin with some bubbly - on offer by the glass Champagne Drappier Zero Dosage - made from 100% pinot noir. It has a slight pink tinge and good acid levels making it an excellent choice for an aperitif.


As we peruse the menu, bread is placed on our table - three types of yoghurt bread, pistachio, olive and plain - to accompany Greek extra virgin olive oil and black salt.

The lunch menu is divided into small plates and large plates. 5 small plates are listed plus two specials (half dozen oysters and grilled mackerel fillets with Greek style baked beans with fetta) along with 3 large plates - meat of the day (cooked on the spit), fish of the day and a pasta dish.

We decide to focus on the small plates - 6 dishes and one side that will come out in 3 courses.

Olives done four ways ($13.90)
From closest - Olive and Feta Dip, Black Olive & Red Grape Salad, Diced Raw Tuna with caramelised olives, Crumbed & Stuffed Green Olives
The caramelised olives are probably one of those "calombaris" touches that tend to be looked upon with confusion and a bit of skepticism. The olives are crunchy and sweet, toffee like and in the dish they mimic the appearance of the black herring roe you'd see in a typical Japanese tuna salad.
The combination of grape and olive is very refreshing and an excellent foil to the more salty and robust dip.

Kritharaki - Rissoni with 3 cheeses ($13.90)
Texture wise, it's akin to a savoury rice pudding - the rissoni (or orzo - it's a pasta shaped like rice) and the cheesy white sauce which surrounds the grains are almost indistinguishable in texture, velvety and soft.

These first two courses were matched with a glass of La Goya Manzanilla

Rabbit Baklava with sweet & sour pickles ($13.90)
The rabbit sits under a case of three wafer thin sheets of filo that are crisp but not fragile - they don't crumble to dust as you slice your way through the lid. Soft shredded rabbit and tiny puy lentils make up the filling. A small dish of sweet and sour pickled cabbage introduces the acid elements needed to match the richness of the rillettes. There's also a very fine dusting of icing sugar over the filo.

Deep fried baby whitebait with school prawn coleslaw($13.90)
It's not often that you see whitebait this small - individually battered and fried. The batter was almost translucent, frilly and crisp. Their texture very much in keeping with the finely shredded cabbage. Interspersed like gems through the bowl were sweet school prawns.

These two courses were matched with a Greek white wine - Antan. Adoli.

Spanakopita - Spinach Pie with poached egg ($13.90)
One of the knockouts - wonderfully flaky filo, creamy spinach filling, soft poached egg, it's yolk mingling so perfectly with the spinach. We both could have eaten all of this.

Mackerel fillets with Greek style baked beans and feta ($14.90)
This was one of the special entrees. As with the other courses, it's a generous serve. Two large grilled mackerel fillets on top of a warm serve of beans and fetta.

Lemon potatoes ($6.50)
There's a few potatoes missing in this has we tucked in before taking the photo. Roasted potatoes with a subtle flavour of lemon - I just love the crusty potato bits that would have come from the bottom of the pan.

These last three dishes were matched with Forrester Chardonnay.

Glyko Mezethedes - dessert platter for two ($22)
Top Left: Watermelon with Cucumber Sorbet
Bottom Left: Passionfruit custard with Chocolate Cigar
Centre: Ice cream with Chocolate Souffle
Top Right: Chios Mastic Panna Cotta with Strawberry Confit and Greek Donut drizzled with honey
Bottom Right: Cherry Sorbet with Cherry confit

You could probably have shared this between four.

Ouzo flight ($14.00)
Paalo indulged in the Ouzo flight with dessert. 3 ouzo's from different regions - the first comes from an island near turkey, the second from Kalamata, the last from another Greek isle.
They are offered with a glass of still mineral water and 3 glasses of ice.

Press club logo that is stamped on the paper top sheet on each table.

At the end of the meal and it's served with or without coffee, is a little digestive of sparkling water and a spoon of chios mastic.

To conclude - fantastic food at a bargain, double the price and we'd still be happy. For a restaurant that had only been only a little more than a week, it was running like a place that had years under it's belt. Go now!

The details:
The Press Club Restaurant and Bar
72 Flinders Street
Phone: 03 9677 9677
Lunch: Monday-Friday
Dinner: Monday- Saturday


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