I had an assignment due today so I decided to take the day off work because I wasn’t going to make it to campus before the deadline, even if I left work early. Getting to Clayton took an hour and fifteen minutes (non-peak hour traffic). Handing my assignment in took about 30 seconds. And I was free for the rest of the day. I wasn’t going to waste my time of freedom and so I headed back into the city to meet up for lunch with Adam at The Press Club. Now, some of you might recall me writing up a review about the place seven months ago. Adam and I were there for their traditional Sunday lunch where they served a plethora of little dishes for the table to share for $55 a head. While the food was beautiful, it’s not really what The Press Club is famous for so we made it our aim to come back for lunch and try their “modern Greek” stuff.
It was 1pm when we rocked up to an almost empty dining room. This surprised me because I would’ve thought that the place would be full of Ernst and Youngers but I guess not. Our lunch menus were printed on a single sheet of card, advertising a $37 two course lunch special and a $45 one consisting of three courses. There was also a four course “kerasma” menu where the kitchen will chose four courses for you for only $48. Clearly that was the best value option but we decided to go easy this time, knowing that we would probably not finish off everything like last time (both of us hate wasting food), so we decided to go for two courses each. Okay fine, I went for three because there was no way I could pass up a bowl of loukamades!
We started off with some warm ciabatta accompanied with that awesome, fruity Cypriot olive oil and ash salt. The bread was crispier than last time, which I gave the thumbs up to. I really should find out the name of the olive oil they use at Press Club, it’s probably the best I’ve ever tasted!
My ridiculously huge (well, huge for a fine dining establishment anyway) entree: Eight large “hand-picked” mussels from Spring Bay were gently steamed in some sort of ouzo, lemon and honey reduction before being flavoured with fresh herbs and spices, anise and coriander to name a few. Hidden amongst the shells was a deep-fried crumbed cigar in the form of a “bakaliaro” (salt cod croquette, I guess) which tasted fine, but nothing mind-blowing. The mussels came with a safron aoli which was beautifully intense but I preferred eating my mussels on its own. To me, the ouzo reduction was enough to bring out the gentle flavours of the mussels. Delicious.
Adam’s entree: Shaved “Hellenic Republic” lamb ham, baked ricotta with a black bean and hazelnut salad. To me, this dish was a bit odd. The baked ricotta building block was fine, it was light, fluffy and delicate. The ham, on the other hand, just seemed a bit wtf. I think it was added as a novelty factor because seriously, where else would one eat lamb ham? It tasted a lot like that cold roast beef stuff you get from the deli, funnily enough. The “salad” was nothing to go on about and personally, I think blackbeans should just be used in Asian cooking and nothing else. The end.
We had a prolonged intermission before our mains arrived. At this point, more diners (mostly suits) were coming into the dining room in droves which kept the two waiters busy. Given that there were only two of them running around, I’d say that they still did a great job with ensuring that they got around to everyone and making sure our glasses were filled.
My main: Roasted barramundi fillet with warm potato salad (which was a skinless version of the coriander potatoes that I had last time). Both elements were fine, the barramuni skin as crisp as a cracker and the flesh so smooth went well with the potatoes that emitted a zesty and nutty zing from the coriander seeds. The highlight of the dish, however, was the taramasalata that came in a little jam jar, lid and all.
I swear, you have not tried taramasalata until you have tried THIS!
Some of you will know taramasalata as that light pink dip you see at delis, the one made with fish roe. It usually tastes pretty sour and “off.” Not this one though. Made with white fish roe, it is whipped until it’s as light as cake mix. It is then topped with sprinkles of crushed pistachios, sultanas, breadcrumbs and Yarra Valley salmon roe. This will restore your faith in taramasalata, I promise! And in case you’re wondering what the piece of paper is, it’s a Dodoni feta cheese ad which George Calombaris endorses to death. Nothing like a bit of shameless cross-promotion…
Adam’s main: “Hot off the Press” chicken spit served with white bean skordalia, lemon potatoes and marouli salad (or simply, iceberg lettuce with vinegarette salad). If you think it looks familiar, then you’re right. It came as one of our courses last time. I was asking Adam why the heck he’d choose something that we’d already tried and he cried out, “I didn’t know! I got sucked in when I saw the words “Hot off the Press” and “Spit”!!” Sigh. Oh well. It wasn’t as good as I remembered, and the chicken was a little bit dry but hey, it was filling… While it wasn’t bad, it’s not something that we’d order again next time.
We were stuffed by the end of that (Adam struggled to finish off his chicken) but we couldn’t say no to loukamades. It goes without saying that these are a must when going to Press Club (or Hellenic Republic), piping hot and crispy puffs of gold drizzled in Atiki honey and sprinkled with walnuts. Perfect with a cup of Greek coffee to end your lunch. Mmmm.
$87 for the two of us, including coffee. Obviously it wasn’t a cheap lunch but definitely good value, given that most mains hovered around the $38 mark. The lunch was a bit of a hit and miss, some dishes were done nicely (haha, mine!) while others were so-so. I would definitely come here to try more “modern Greek” stuff, particularly the crazy stuff that comes out at night such as the scallops louakamades which are apparently awesome. The service, this time around, was a little bit waffly but I guess having only two staff on the floor makes it hard to please everyone and plus, George Calombaris is out of the country so I guess everyone’s a little bit more relaxed. It’s not like we were in a rush to leave anyway. One thing that I love about George Calmobaris’ restaurants though, is that I’ve always walked out of them feeling STUFFED so I wouldn’t advise going there if you’re trying to lose weight, heh. Having said that, Adam and I did manage to walk to East Melbourne library and back into the city to burn off those calories so in the end, it all evens out .
We left The Press Club at 2:30pm. It is now 8:40pm. And I’m still full.