72 Flinders Street, Melbourne, Victoria
It was a freezing Friday night in Melbourne but the weather hadn’t stopped the crowds from invading the city. The streets were vibrant and buzzing with the energy of the buskers and end of week revellers. The horse drawn coaches along Swanston Street had their tops up in case it rained and all but the most adventurous or fool hardy people were wearing overcoats, scarves, boots and some carried umbrellas. It seems that Melbournians really thrive in the cold and the colder it got the hungrier I got. This was perfect weather for eating, drinking and having fun.
We were on foot heading up Flinders Street to attend our most exciting food adventure to date at the famous Press Club. The crowd was huge right in front of Flinders Street station when we noticed everyone had stopped to allow a Bride and Groom to have photos taken right in the middle of the street. It was a magic moment and I thought it was a pretty good omen considering I was taking my gorgeous bride to dinner for our nineteenth wedding anniversary.
Two blocks later we were standing in front of an imposing stone building with a huge brass plaque on the wall that said The Press Club: The little Press and Cellar. At this stage I had no idea how expensive this place was, but I was glad we charged up the old credit card before we left home. The Matre de was charming and welcoming, he took our coats and led us through the restaurant to our table which was beautifully set with silver and crystal.
The decor is luxurious dark timber and plush leather upholstery with subtle down lighting. The acoustics were wonderfully baffled by the beamed ceiling and vertical wooden batten feature at one end of the dining room. Although the room was full of happy chatting patrons, we weren’t overwhelmed by noise and were able to easily have a conversation. It definitely felt cosy and modern.
The menu offers many delights, among them Marron, Lamb, Kingfish, Duck, Whiting, Chicken and an array of accompanying vegetables and side dishes all within a modern Greek style. We decided to go the whole hog and ordered the eight course symposium that was recommended to us by our waitress.
Our table was then made ready for the first course and a small bowl of Greek olive oil and black sea salt was presented with freshly baked bread. An amazing pumpkin seed whole meal bun and crisp sourdough roll, both piping hot and delicious with the salt and oil.
We aren’t big wine fans and although the restaurant has an in house wine expert that will recommend a wine for each course, we decided that we wanted to experience the taste of every mouthful of food unhindered, so opted for sparkling mineral water. The menu does suggest a premium wine match for the symposium menu at $95 a bottle. Pretty cheap when you consider it’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars for wine at any top restaurant.
The first course arrived with our waitress and the Matre de to ensure everything was in order, which impressed us greatly. “Kasos Palamidda Tuna” came in small glass jars on a wooden presentation board. They were placed in front of us and the waitress explained what we were about to enjoy and how it was prepared. It was amazingly tasty and for me, a brand new experience in enjoying the flavour of Tuna. My appetite was now stimulated to a new high and I couldn’t wait for what was to come. It was a remarkable starter.
Before the second course came, our table was reset and drinks refreshed. I decided it was time for a beer and when I asked our waitress she suggested I try a Greek beer. Well of course, when in Greece. She brought over a small bottle of “Craft Athens Lager” and at $10 a stubby it really hit the spot and went perfectly with the next course which was a wild mushroom dish called “Heleniko Manitari.” This was a mix of different types of mushrooms sautéed with an amazing deep fried egg yolk on top that was still runny in the middle that blew our tastebuds away. I could eat this one all day.
By now we realised that we were being taken on a journey. Each dish was richer than the last and the flavours more complex and interesting. The third course was “Larissa Kotopoulo Chicken”, and the fourth course “Kolonaki Psari Barramundi.” This was a lot of fun. We explored each dish, discussing what we found and tasted. Just kicking back and soaking up the atmosphere of laughter and soft music as we watched the efficient army of staff moving around each table with military precision. The restaurant gives full view of the kitchen and the huge plating up table where a handful of lucky patrons dine while the chefs put the finishing touches on their masterpieces. Now that’s entertainment.
The fifth course was “Thessalonika Hirino Pork.” A very rich dish of perfectly cooked pork loin accompanied with a medallion of black pudding highlighted by a wondrously flavoursome jus. By now it was time for a break. I ordered another Athens Lager and we sat back and worried about fitting in another three courses. The portions are not massive but after five courses and an hour and a half of culinary pleasures, we were feeling quite full.
We were never hurried along and the staff must have watched us to see how we were going because our waitress didn’t reset the table until we were completely finished, and the next course didn’t arrive until were ready to eat. This was first class service. Thoroughly attentive and always meeting our needs.
As soon as we looked comfortable our sixth course arrived. This was the last savoury course and the richest dish yet. “Naoussa Papia Duck.” The piece of duck breast is cooked “confit”, from the French “confit de canard” method of curing with salt and slowly poached in a warm bath of its own fat for up to ten hours. This creates the most tender mouth-watering example of duck flesh you could ever taste.
That was the last of the savoury dishes and we were eye poppingly satisfied, but we had two dessert courses yet to enjoy and no matter how full you are, there’s always room for sweets, am I right? The first was “Corfu Refreshing” tangy sorbet with black current marange. This was exactly what we needed to cleanse the pallet and get us ready for the main dessert.
Our eighth and last course for the evening was the jewel in the crown. “Rethimno Risogalo Rice.” Two ceramic pots covered with gold foil caps came to the table on a platter that was inscribed “Happy Anniversary” in chocolate just for us. Inside the pots was a medley of custards and crèmes, popped crispy black rice and crumbly biscuit. The many textures and creaminess was seductive and euphoric. Totally unforgettable. We had just consumed eight works of art. The Press Club Symposium was indeed a journey, a round trip that took us to the pinnacle of richness and flavour and delivered us into a state of sweet satisfying ecstasy.
The cost of such luxury was $135 each for the Symposium plus drinks and a well-deserved tip. We experienced exceptional food and service that lasted for two and a half hours and we considered the whole adventure very good value. We can now cross off our bucket list eating at George Colombaris’ restaurant but have every intention of going back to experience more of his genius. Have a good think about taking someone you love to The Press Club for a special occasion. It will be a memory that will last you forever.
Kelly’s Take “The Press Club”
It was such a great opportunity to go to the Press Club for our anniversary. We don’t usually splash out that big so it was lots of fun. And yes, I admit it, I DID want to meet George Colombaris and act like a gushing fan telling him how much I love him on Masterchef! But it wasn’t to be. I guess I should have expected it the night before Masterchef 2012 started on TV. I am sure if he had realised the clash he would have changed something to be there to meet me.
However, the wonderful staff looked after us so well. Our every whim was catered for even before we knew what we wanted. We also received a happy anniversary card from George and all the staff. And the food!!! What can I say?
We had the 8 course Degustation thinking they would be very small tapas like tastes but around about course number five I started to get scared! I am a good eater and as far as I can remember I have never been frightened while eating but there is a first time for everything.
To say the food was delicious is an understatement. My tastebuds were loving it but I was so full and I still had three courses to go. I knew I couldn’t quit, this could be my one and only chance to eat at the Press Club and we had to pay even if I didn’t eat it all. So I soldiered on bravely. I am glad I did because the desserts were to die for.