Vanessa: After a week of separation anxiety, I was reunited with Bianca and Alex to kick off our 5 day food journey across Melbourne. What better way to kick off the first evening of our rendezvous, than at George Calombaris’ revamped Press Club…or so we thought.
Having heard a number of various reviews, mostly positive, we thought it best that we experience it for ourselves. Upon entering The Press Club the first thing that caught my eye was the plush leather booths that fill each side of the small interior.
The restaurant is quaint and there are five booths running along each side of the interior. George must have a penchant for eye-catching ceiling design and lights as, similar to Gazi, The Press Club’s ceiling features interesting detail in the form of brass ceiling fixtures.
As we settled in, our friendly waitress greeted us and explained the menu options for the evening. The Press Club offers various set menus ranging from 4 course for $95, 6 course for $155 and 8 course for $180. Knowing that we were dining at Attica the following day, we opted for the 4-course menu. We were told that we would be given a selection from the full menu offering and after our dietary needs were addressed (of which there are none aside from Bianca and Alex’s aversion to Oysters) we settled in to sip on a rather pricey glass of Pinot Gris.
Our waitress re-appeared, quickly presenting us with a selection of mezze. Our favourite of them all was the savoury take on the typically sweet Loukoumades. In this instance, they were served savoury and had a distinct salt & vinegar flavour. They were paired with creamy, white taramasalata. The taramasalata was very subtle in its flavour and not overly fishy, which it can sometimes be. Paired with the crispy, doughy balls of loukoumades, it made for a unique and hopeful foray into the menu.
We were also privy to trying The Press Club’s take on Tzaziki made up of thinly sliced cucumbers topped with Greek yoghurt and black garlic. The flavour of tzatziki was there with an interesting textural element from its deconstructed format. The mezze set the scene for the rest of the menu which takes traditional Greek dishes and creatively modernises them.
The first dish that was presented to us was the Octopus kokkinisto with fava beans and capers. Now let me start off with the positives because we were all unanimous in our thought that it was one of the tastiest morsels of Octopus we had ever had. It was not at all tough and had a strong sweet flavour to it. The fava beans were rich and gave a burst of colour to the dish. The negative was that there was just not enough of it. This could have been ingested whole in one mouthful had we not exercised an extreme amount of poise and control. I understand that is one course of a tasting menu and that it is intended to demonstrate finesse but the portion size was quite laughable.
Next up was the onion yemista which is served with anchovy and parsley. This was a dish that was praised by all of us as it incorporated strong flavours of lamb combined with the sweetness of the onion. The onion was soft but impressively still held its form underneath the lamb. The parsley offset the richness of these two key ingredients which was very much needed.
We were also presented with some tsoureki bread, that is traditionally served at Easter, that had been made in-house and was the perfect accompaniment to mop up the juices from the yemista
The third course presented to us was beef with horta and malt tarama . From the outset I will say that the small slices of beef we received were cooked to a perfect medium rare. Beyond that, we all agreed that mixing salty beef with fishy taramasalata was a curious choice. We felt that the flavours clashed rather than complimented each other. A carb to accompany could have done wonders to elevate this dish we felt. It was also around this time that we were coming to the end of the our tasting menu, yet we were not feeling remotely full (or satisfied).
A palette cleanser of foamed yoghurt with lemon and fennel arrived at an opportune moment as we set ourselves up for the fourth and final course of our meal.
A baklava that had been encased in a rose-water jelly served alongside pistachio ice-cream was set down in front of us. I appreciate that this was an ode to Greece’s neighbour, Turkey, but there is never a need to modify baklava in my opinion. I really felt the addition of the rosewater jelly overpowered the dish and I can’t say that I enjoyed the flavour combination at all.
As we settled our bill our friendly waitress brought out some petit fours to before we head off to grab a night-cap.
Whilst The Press Club delivers the finesse you would expect of a degustation and restaurant of this nature, personally I feel it misses the mark in terms of price point vs value. The staff were attentive and Bianca particularly really enjoyed the food, however myself and Alex left with a sense of dissatisfaction. Were my expectations too high? Possibly…but I have dined at enough restaurants of this calibre and haven’t felt as disappointed as I did leaving The Press Club.
Photos by Alex