From time to time we all need a small break from the hustle and bustle of life, as hard as that is to accept for someone like myself - a full time professional musician. As a self professed workaholic, I often fill every bit of down time with some sort of career busy-work. However, as my partner had a few days work interstate, we decided to make use of my 'musician's weekend' and spend Monday through to Wednesday morning in Melbourne, being sure to return to Adelaide just in time to continue the working week in the orchestra for a matinee performance of 'Matilda the Musical'.
Melbourne. It's a great city.
Many of us Adelaideans share a strong affiliation for this neighbouring capital city. With its distinct artistic vibrancy, multiculturalism and ever-evolving food and drink culture, there's always an adventure to be had in some way or another. As musicians, Sally and I have individually spent large amounts of time here working on various shows, tours and concerts and as is often the case with our artistic existences, we've shared a healthy number of these experiences with our musical friends and colleagues amongst the exciting food and drink culture of this fair city. Whether it's a meal between shows or cocktails on a night off, between the both of us we've proudly amassed a list of our favourite restaurants, bars and general places of culinary pleasure but like any list of this sort it's hardly complete. This is hardly surprising as each time we resurface in Melbourne there seems to be at least ten more recommended locations to discover! However, prior to organising this trip, we both felt the need to do something extra special as far as our dining options were concerned. Sally did the sneaky organising via a Facebook questionnaire (of which I was hidden from) and although she tried to keep it a secret, our shared love of food and drink got the better of her and she let me know that she'd booked us in at 'The Press Club' on Tuesday night.
Since the inception of the Australian version of cooking show Masterchef, the words 'Press Club' have become familiar and instantly synonymous with celebrity chef and host, George Calombaris. George's display of love for his Hellenic homeland is both honest and infectious, and the enveloping hospitality that Greek cuisine so often encourages meant that both Sally and I were extremely excited about what we might experience.
The Press Club, situated on the corner of Flinders and Exhibition Street is an intimate 32 seater, 'with a fit out that's all curved leather booths and reflective surfaces'. It is, as the Press Club proudly declare, unmistakably fine dining. Dinner options entail either a six or eight course menu (yes, we chose the second option..!) with optional wine pairings.
Since a young age, I've been fascinated by the organic pairing of food and beverage; that fabulous thing that happens when you have the right glass of wine, beer or spirit to compliment the flavour of a dish, delivering this next-level olfactory delight and my time here at windirect.com.au has helped to flare this up in a big way and also helped develop my palate through the various tastings we're exposed to. Most of the time, I drive my friends bat-sh!t crazy with this sort of speak and try my hardest to be subtle about it by just pouring a wine that I know will bring the magic and then let the dinner party guests come to their own conclusions... but let's all agree, when we do go out for that 'once in a blue moon' fancy meal, we're going to let ourselves be receptive to the knowledge of the in-house sommelier who knows the menu and ingredients as well as the chefs themselves and let them add that exponential factor to the evening's culinary affairs. Carpe Diem - or something.
Gamma / theta
NV Delamotte ‘’Blanc de Blancs’’, Champagne, France
Potato kleftiko / skordalia / walnut
2013 Sclavos ‘’Efranor’’ Moscatel Vostidili Cepholonia, Hellenic Republic
2016 Bannockburn ‘'1314'' Chardonnay, Geelong, Victoria
Octopus / zesto / cryo
2014 Salomon ‘’Wieden & Berg'' Grüner Veltliner, Kremastal, Austria
PSARI / kakavia / loukou pilafi
2016 Lostesso Fiano , Heathcote, Victoria
Papia / byzantine / trahana
2012 Paradigm Hill ‘’Col’s Block'' Shiraz, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Sokolata / halva / goats curd
2013 Friends Of Punch ‘’Noble Riesling'', Grampians, Victoria
Bouyatsa / quince / cinnamon icecream
2011 Terre a Terre ‘’Botrytis Pinot Gris’’, Wrattonbully, SA
Our first course was very much visual and played a big part in defining the food journey of the evening and George's culinary style all round: playful and relaxed, whilst undeniably elegant and creative. Seated on a timber board, came a small Hills Hoist hanging with crisp, roasted eggplant and two small ice-cream cones of a savoury variety. Alongside, some classic dips, carob pita breads and loukoumades (again of a savoury variety - normally served dipped in honey), which were served slightly salted. We were invited by our brilliant table staff to use our hands, break open the pita and small doughnuts to mop up the dips and to generally have fun. Instantly we felt the warm and fuzzies and whilst still sitting in arguably one of Melbourne's finer eating establishments, the ice was well and truly broken and we felt immediately welcomed into arms of the Press Club's Hellenic hospitality. I mean, they even leave a box of cutlery on your table giving the diner their own choice without nervously eyeballing the rest of the room to check.
Each dish that followed had a small story that presented its importance to the menu, which is altered daily based on locally sourced seasonal produce. Stories of tradition, family and the essence of simple ingredients that are key to Greek cuisine. Of course there are house favourites including the Press Club's version of Skordalia, made from potatoes that are cooked overnight in foil amongst extinguished coals. Being a vegetarian, Sally received an exclusive menu which at times made me question my own omnivorous habits (!) and were all beautifully presented and delicious.
The wine pairings we received were absolutely stunning. Each time our sommelier appeared at our table, our eyes lit up and conversation was put on hold as we listened to our recommended wines and his reasons for matching. Starting with French Blanc de Blancs with our entree and then moving to whites, I was interested in the Greek wine we were served (in this case with the Skordalia). This particular variety from the island of Cephalonia, is a dry white Muscat style wine and grows in free-draining limestone soils in high altitude terroir of up to 850 metres. This wine had a distinctive interplay between floral aromas and citrus, whilst etched into a Mediterranean style acidity and worked wonderfully to cut through the earthy sweetness of the potato, walnut and cheese of the dish. Other favourites of the evening were the 2016 Bannockburn Chardonnay and the 2012 Mornington Peninsula Shiraz.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and we're still telling people about our experience at The Press Club; everything from the warm service to our final dessert. One of my favourite things about food culture are the memories it can create. These ones are fantastic, thanks Melbourne.