Last week, I traded in all my lucky fairies and was invited by Universal Pictures Australia to the home entertainment launch of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 at The Press Club, joined by a bunch of other food-adoring bloggers for a big fat Greek lunch.
And where better to celebrate all things Greek than at the home of blue and white in Melbourne, being hosted by Australia’s poster boy of Greek chefs, and The Press Club owner, George Calombaris.
OPA! A love of all things Greek
The Press Club, now in its second iteration, is clearly a passion project for Calombaris to indulge in his Hellenic roots but also share this passion for all-things-Greek with Melburnians (and visiting interstaters too).
Although, reflecting on the flamboyant Greekism portrayed in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, this heritage was something Calombaris fought as a child. “As an Aussie boy growing up in this country with Greek parents I just did not want to be Greek, I hated the idea,” he shared. “I hated the idea of going to school and having a big Tupperware container. I wanted the little lunchbox.”
How evidently things have changed, with a now passion clearly bordering on obsession. And if you put Calombaris’s obsession for authentic Greek food and service in a Kenwood with a litre of Aussie spirit, you’ll get The Press Club.
The Press Club 2.0
Re-launched in late 2013, The Press Club is now a much more intimate version of its previous self, only seating 34 people, all clustered together in plush cream, curved leather booths, from where you can peer down into the kitchen (if you’re seated on the fortunate northside that is). Topping the skinny, exclusive dining space is a cocktail bar befitting of a James Bond movie. What looks like pools of liquid gold adorn the roof, completing the luxurious and extravagant fit out that is all gold, leather and well-Windexed reflective surfaces.
Fine dining without the pomp
The Press Club is fine dining without the pomp and all drawn from Calombaris’s take on Greek cuisine, which is certainly more kitsch than clichéd. Your only option is a degustation of sorts, which range from the two-course $35pp lunch option to the nine-course $195pp dinner option, and lots of variations in between.
The bespoke big fat Greek lunch I experienced, created by Calombaris and all perfectly-presented, kicked off with an appetiser of loukoumathes (Greek doughy honey balls), which we were instructed to dip into the Greek tarama dip, which was bloody amazing – you’d happily stuff a Tupperware container of the creamy dip into your handbag without a second thought! Then followed some neatly packaged tsoureki (traditional Greek Easter bread) stuffed with pork, apple and other goodies.
Entrée was a pork terrine-type hirino pihto with basil and pipperia, with main a proportionate piece of beautifully-cooked chicken, served with fasolakia (Greek green beans) that were topped with lemon, Greek yoghurt and roasted almonds.
Dessert was an ultra-delicate rhubarb and liquorice rizogalo (or Greek rice pudding), finishing off with an Australiana-inspired hills hoist pegged with sugary sweets (marshmallows, chocolate brittle, etc) that Calombaris toured the 10 tables to torch himself.
The stars of the wine list are the hard-to-pronounce Greek wines that are so refined and easy to drink. Calombaris casually drops that he’s the largest importer of Greek wine in Melbourne – Heston buys a bunch from him for his place, apparently. And by “his place”, I mean Melbourne’s hottest restaurant of the moment: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
The Press Club is…
Located next door to the original The Press Club site, which now houses Calombaris’s other brainchild, Gazi, the current offering is fresh, fun and has a hint of food theatre to it.
Although it’s fine dining and somewhat formal, it’s a roundabout removed from anything stuffy.
Overall attention to detail and service is of the highest order, something Calombaris credits to his Hellenic upbringing commenting that when he has staff that don’t understand the ‘Greek way of service’ he sends them to his mum’s house for an education.
For the average punter, if you want a lesson in Greek food of the freshest variety, culture and quality service, there’s no better place to learn than at The Press Club.
The Press Club | 72 Flinders Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9677 9677