Welcome to Melbourne Foodie. The blogspace of a young foodie with a passion for cooking, fine dining and quality food and produce. Melbourne Foodie, along with the other sources I write for is my way of casually expressing and recording some of the experiences I have had for others to enjoy. I always welcome any feedback, comments or restaurant suggestions you may have and would love to hear from you soon.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Press Club
“Greek cuisine is not about structure or formalities. It’s about the passion of ‘kerasma’. At The Press Club ‘kerasma’ means to treat and symbolises Greek hospitality. It brings together the pleasure of food and beverage to your everyday table” (George Calombaris). This philosophy certainly comes true when you order the kerasma (an unstructured chef’s choice menu) at The Press Club. The kerasma begins with a mezedes board, followed by appetizers, salads, mains and if you can handle it, sweets. They don’t just throw any old food at you either: it’s a selection of the chefs’ finest: intermixing creative and traditional Greek cuisine. The sought of things my grandma cooks, along with much more imaginative faire.

After trying to get a booking here many times over the past year to no avail I finally set a date and ate at The Press Club last night; thoroughly enjoying the “Kerasma B” menu, a selection of just about everything the kitchen has to offer for $75. It is great value in my opinion, for the vast amount of high quality food that is presented. The service I received was very good, but this may be inconsistent. My drinks were constantly filled and the eager to please staff always there whenever needed. Conversing with other guests showed that this treatment was not universal. Louise, a patron at a nearby table who popped over for a chat pre-dessert, stated a 20-minute wait after ordering expensive champagne (I think it probably needed to be chilled) and constant struggling for attention. I also observed another nearby table having to ask for wine to be filled after glasses sat empty for some time. I know the feeling, but had no such trouble here. My waiter was very attentive.

The Press Club has a nice, informal ambience. A long marble bar sits along the front, as well as an open kitchen. I am pleased to report that there are definitely no smoke or ventilation issues inside; something which was apparently an issue when they first opened. Swanky lights drop down from the ceiling across the room and dark colours and wood panneling are used to create a more intimate space. The place is buzzing; filled with smartly attired young wait staff. Tables covered with a white sheet stamped with The Press Club logo in the corner. I like it a lot, but must grumble a little about table spacing. There are quite simply too many tables jammed into the modest dining room. Staff must struggle, squeezing between tables to deliver food. One negative of an otherwise well set up room.

Before I review the food I must credit the staff who gave thorough descriptions of each dish, as well as the Greek names. Unfortunately I did not absorb a lot of this information but will do my best to summarise everything I ate.

Things start off at The Press Club with a customary offering of bread: no less than three varieties are presented. A crusty yoghurt sourdough, pistachio honey loaf and a lovely sun dried tomato bread, the flavours subtle but apparent. The bread is served with a good Greek olive oil and black flake salt from Cyprus. Each variety is excellent but I am careful to simply have a nibble of each so as to not fill up before the food proper arrives.

The first course is an excellent mezedes (tastes) board: Clockwise from the top, the board contains: Rather excellent pickled cabbage and cucumber slices, a slightly sweet vegetarian dolmade (vine leaf stuffed with rice and drizzled with honey), a fresh mussel topped with a fetta and tomato crust, saganaki martini - A warm skewered piece of grilled haloumi ontop of a "martini" of chilled "tomato tea", marinated Australian and Greek olives and finally a dish of seasoned baby octopus meat. Each morsel is excellent. I particularly enjoyed the haloumi skewer, and the tender spiced octopus meat.

After the mezedes two different orektika (appetisers) arrive. The first is this dumpling of minced chicken, sitting on a creamy capsicum and fetta dip. It is sided with a crisp cucumber spaghetti, perfectly dressed with olive oil, mint and dill and a sweet fig paste. The dumpling itself is fine but not spectacular. The accompaniments however are top rate.

The second orektika is excellent. A crispy fried zucchini flower, stuffed with ricotta and sided by a perfect quinelle of creamy pine nut skordalia and a drizzling of Greek honey.

After enjoying the orektika two different salates (salads) are presented. The first is this sensational dish of fresh sliced figs, sitting atop Greek yoghurt and finished with flaked roasted almonds, olive oil and a sticky balsamic reduction. The flavours work together so well - the freshness of the figs with the creamy youghurt and sweetness of the balsamic. So good.

The other salate is this creative little dish of watermelon, topped with crumbled Greek fetta, small green olives, caramalised walnuts, shaved radish and micro beetroot shoots. Another explosion of fresh flavours. Certainly not your typical salad dish.

Whilst I am finishing my salads the kyrio (mains) board is presented. Again I am gobsmacked by the amount of food. The board contains a beautiful pan-fried fillet of garfish, the most amazing spit roasted lamb of both rack and skirt meat, a serve of roasted lemon potatoes, "horiatiki" - Greek salad, pickled cucumbers, a diced potato salad with a mustard dressing and the creamy capsicum and fetta dip. So much food.

Lovely fillet of garfish, garnished "Greek style" with olive oil and herbs, served with a wedge of lemon. Slightly crisp outside and soft inside. A simple, tasty piece of fish.

"Hot off the Press" Lamb Spit: My notes from the night - "Fall off the bone fatty goodness" just about sums this dish up. It reminds me of my grandmas roasted lamb. It was so soft and gelatinous with beautiful crisp skin. The potatoes were exactly like my grandmas, like big wedges: crisp on the outside and soft inside, with a very subtle hint of lemon. The meat lays nicely on a good white bean skordalia and is finished with roasted onion, green beans and a little fetta. So good.

"Horiatiki" - Greek Salad. Large chunks of cucumber that have been seeded, along with red onion, tomato, fetta, fennel and plump olives. I've seen chefs remove the seeds from cucumbers before but never really understood it. This salad is the reason why. Its so crisp and the dressing is excellent. All in all making it the best Greek salad I've ever had.

A selection of dessert mezedes: I am seriously given enough for three people here. Tables of two and three seemed to receive the same plate. Everything is really good, though the presentation of one of the dishes is less than appetising, another guest commenting that it looked like cat turd. Clockwise from the top the board contains: chocolate fondant, with a squiggle of rich mousse and a smooth coconut scented ice-cream. It is rich and delicious, but maybe the mould should not be so heavily floured, and the squiggle? Next is mastic panacotta with marinated strawberries. Mastic is a small evergreen shrub which produces an aromatic resin, which adds flavour and texture when used in cooking. I love panacotta and this was a good, albeit different version. Next are the loukoumades, fabulously light greek doughnuts drizzled with attiki honey and finally a textbook perfect classic creme caramel. The desserts are really very good and I am hard pressed to criticise any of them.

Things are wrapped up with a strong espresso and I leave very satisfied. I now have to convince my grandmother to come with me for dinner, who declined my invitation.

If you really want a Greek feast, and the chance to see George Calombaris and his team in action you simply must visit The Press Club. But book ahead because its always full. You can order a la carte or trust the chefs and go for the kerasma. It is well worth it and they will customise a feast to suit your needs, with dietary requirements and personal preferences taken into consideration.

The Press club received a score of 16 out of 20 and was awarded two chefs hats in the 2008 Age Good Food Guide. It also received the award for Best New Restaurant.

MY RATING: 16.5/20 - Food 8.5/10 Ambience 4/5 Service 4/5 - Highly Recommended


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  posted at 7:38 AM  

At March 23, 2008 at 9:23 AM, Blogger Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Hi Jon,

Thanks for this wonderful post and the accompanying photos. When I am in Melbourne, I will look up The Press Club. And thanks for all the other reviews on your blog, makes planning the culinary end of a trip to Melbourne that much easier!

On a personal note, you just may find my Greek food blog interesting, see: Greek Food

Be Well,

Sam Sotiropoulos

At March 23, 2008 at 10:50 AM, Blogger Jon! said...

Thanks for your kind words Sam. Glad you are enjoying my posts. I look forward to discovering your blog on Greek food. From what I have seen it looks great. Enojoy your trip to Melbourne.

Happy eating,


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