Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Press Club

"Food is family, family is life, life is everything". That's George Calombaris' outlook on things, and it sounds on the money to me.

Every now and again we escape Brisbane and get to graze at some great places. We organised our last trip to Melbourne around dinner at The Press Club, where George Calombaris' food has been receiving rave reviews.

The first thing we noticed was how busy the room was. It was 8pm on a Sunday night and the place was packed. It was a wide selection of diners - young people, families, children, you name it. Always a good sign.

The other thing that really stood out was the service. Throughout the meal, the service was friendly, professional, knowledgeable and only there when you needed it. When we made our booking we were asked if we had any special dietary requests. I'm a coeliac but don't usually make too much of a fuss about gluten free food at restaurants as good as this one. However I was absolutely amazed when our waitress brought the bread out at the start of the night, only to tell me that the gluten free bread was being warmed and would be out in a minute. It's never happened to me before, and will stick in my mind for a long time. Little touches like that can transform a good night into a great one.

Happily munching on my crumbly gluten free bread while dipping it in some great olive oil (which is a good experience) we then had to make a few choices off the menu.

There are plenty of options when it comes to food at The Press Club. The menu is split up into orektika (small dishes - $19.90 to $24.90), kyria (large dishes - $34 to $39), synotheftika (side dishes - $9 - including the obligatory lemon potatoes), glyka (sweets - $17.90 to $21) and cheese ($11 to $24). If you'd rather leave what you're eating in the hands of the chef, then there is also the kerasma or tasting option, ranging from $65 for 4 courses to $82 for 6 courses. You'd have to be pretty fussy not to find something that takes your fancy here.

Time to order. First of all, I have to apologise that some of the items we had are not currently on the menu, so if I don't get the description right, please forgive me.

I started off with a crab and watermelon "sandwich" ($21.90). I can't recall if it was described as a sandwich on the menu, but that's what it looked like. Beautiful slices of pink crunchy watermelon took the place of bread, with tasty, delicate crab as the filling. This was one of the best, and most innovative, starters that I have had for a long time. It really was a fantastic way to kick off the night.

My dining partner had the beetroot salad ($17.90) as a starter. This was served as chunks of beetroot, with a spiced pistachio tower, soft feta and micro herbs. Again, this salad got rave reviews. Beautiful flavours, which complemented each other perfectly. Things were looking good.

On to mains. I didn't find anything on the main menu which jumped off the page as much as the crab and watermelon sandwich. After much debating, I went for the yoghurt braised neck of lamb with olive oil pomme puree ($36). Although it was tasty, it lacked the wow factor of my starter. Perhaps I should have gone with the "hot off the press" lamb spit with white bean skordalia, lemon potatoes and marouli salad ($37). To criticise the lamb neck in any way would be wrong, it was beautifully tender, it just lacked that extra special quality that I had been hoping for. We also had the raviolo of peppered fig ($18.90), a vegetarian dish, which was excellent.

We certainly weren't leaving a Greek restaurant without having some sweets. There are some great ones to choose from. We thought about going for the selection of dessert mezedes, but decided against it. Instead we ordered the "breakfast at Santorini" ($17.90) which tasted as good as it sounds. Great, tangy, flavours with lemon curd and yoghurt sorbet. I had the Chios mastic panacotta ($17.90) served with marinated strawberries. I've never had mastic before, but this was a great way to end the night. Whatever you do, make sure you leave room for sweets, as there are some fantastic (and unusual) options at the Press Club.

Another great thing about the Press Club is the Greek wine on offer. I enjoyed some great wine in Greece, but it seems to be very hard to find a decent selection of Greek wine in Brisbane. The wine list here is really impressive and has been put together after a lot of time and thought.

During the night we had glasses of the Kir-yianni ‘Petra’ roditis (white) 2006 from Naoussa ($12), Gaia agiorgitiko (red) 2005 ($12.50), Kir-Yianni ‘Paranga’ xinomauvro, merlot, shiraz blend 2005 ($11.50) and the fabulous dessert wines from Samos, ranging in vintages from 2000 to 2005. I've never had a Greek dessert wine before, but these were the perfect way to end the evening. I was draining my glass for every last drip. By the way, our dessert wines were served in cool Riedel "O" series glasses. I was impressed.

If you're not a fan of Greek wine, there are lots of other options. In fact the drinks menu runs for 27 pages and includes Greek beers (Alpha, Mythos and Vergina), a good selection of Ouzo, cocktails and plenty more.

It's hard not to enjoy a night at the Press Club. Beautiful flavours, brilliant service and a terrific wine list round out a great place to spend the evening. Not only that, but it all comes in a relaxed, fun surroundings. Make sure you give it a try next time you are in Melbourne. Be warned though, it's popular, and you'll need to book.

What does all this mean? Excellent modern Greek food, brilliant service and a wine list that will keep you drinking all night.

food bling ratings
Food - Great
Service - Top Shelf
Ambience - Modern, relaxed surroundings
Value for Money - Good
Wine - Top Shelf
Vegetarian - Good
Gluten Free - Good

The Press Club
72 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
P - 03 9677 9677
E - admin@thepressclub.com.au
W - http://www.thepressclub.com.au/

Press Club on Urbanspoon

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