Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ah-ha! The Press Club

When the Handsome Australian rang to make a dinner booking at The Press Club, it was obvious Friday or Saturday nights were not available for several weeks. Keen for a night out and not wanting to postpone our plans, we settled for a Sunday evening. At the time of making the booking, the Handsome Australian was asked if we were celebrating a special occasion. He responded in the affirmative as I'd recently reached a chronological milestone (of which we will never speak it?) and this dinner was partially a tribute to my reaching said milestone. Done. Sunday evening at 7:30pm we had a date with The Press Club.

So when Sunday evening rolled around, we caught a train into the City and walked the short distance from Flinder's Street Station (the heart of Melbourne's rail network) down to the corner of Flinder's and Exhibition Streets. I knew very little about The Press Club before we made our dinner booking. I'd heard it described as "modern Greek" and I recognised Owner and Chef George Calombaris from his appearances on channel ten's "Ready Steady Cook" (a somewhat average cooking show that my four year old adores). Beyond these little bits and pieces of information, I had very little to go on.

As we approached the corner of Flinder's and Exhibition Street, the Handsome Australian began to explain to me that the building which now houses The Press Club was previously the home of the Herald and Weekly Times, publishers of Melbourne's Herald Sun Newspaper. The building is architecturally significant and is heritage listed. This is when the little cogs in my head began to turn and the light bulb switched on--the name! That is where the name for the restaurant came from. I never knew the history of the building until this moment and had been wondering why a "modern Greek" restaurant would be called The Press Club. There you have it, the eureka moment. As I explained my excitement in making this connection to the Handsome Australian, he looked at me sideways with a broad smile as if to say, "Aw you silly Texan. You've still got a lot to learn about this city."

History lessons aside, I knew we were heading into somewhere special when I saw the gold plated signs out the front of the building with the words The Press Club printed on them. The signs were simple and elegant but bold at the same time. The doors to the building were heavy and large and seemed the appropriate entrance to the grand adventure on which we were about to embark.

We arrived just after 7pm and since our booking wasn't until 7:30pm the hostess asked if we'd like to have a drink at the bar while we waited for our table. We had all ready made cocktail plans on our train ride in to the city so we were more than happy to oblige. A well dressed host in a business suit, collared shirt, but no tie directed us back out the doors, across the entry way and into The Press Club Bar.

The bar was long and narrow and very quiet on a Sunday night. We sat down on some couches near a window and surveyed the Bar menu. When I say menu I should say novella--it was a book. The wine list was expansive if not exhaustive--there were wines from all over the world: red, white, sparkling--the choice was ours to make. There were liqueurs, aperitifs, digestives, ouzos and a couple of pages of cocktails. We chose a couple of cocktails and settled in for a little while.

The service in the bar was a bit slow and the cocktails left us unimpressed. Having said that, ordering cocktails from their Bar menu was probably the equivalent to ordering a vegetarian meal at a steakhouse--it's not their speciality and it's going to be average at best. Note to us: next time order one of the amazing wines, you'll be better off.

7:30pm rolled around and we were itching to ditch the bar and get to the main event. The Handsome Australian gave the bartender a nod and asked him to check on the availability of our table. He came back and told us jokingly, "I had to twist some arms, but I got you in." We provided the requisite laughter he was after and he personally escorted us out of the bar and back across the entry way into the main restaurant.

This is when the evening really began...

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