Thursday, February 26, 2009

Impressed by The Press Club

The first thing I noticed about The Press Club as we were being shown to our table was the understated simplicity of the decor. Tables were dressed in white linens that stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the room where warm browns and oranges ruled. The dining room itself has a very angular look with all the tables being a square or rectangle shape.

We had a lovely table for two near a window overlooking Exhibition Street. Bench seats ran along the wall with sleek wooden chairs holding the opposing positions. Squeezing between the tables to reach the bench seating was a delicate exercise. The tables are very close together and getting in was just the first dilemma. Trying not to eavesdrop on your neighbours was the next. I listened word for word as a fellow expatriate in Melbourne for business, talked endlessly about her life in Sydney. She was a very interesting woman, but I did take note that this was not the place for delicate discussions with your partner or the unveiling of secret business plans unless of course you wanted to share that information with the closest 10 or 12 diners.

Once we'd settled in at our table, I noticed an unmarked envelope with the restaurant's logo on the back. The Handsome Australian noticed it too. He picked it up and opened it to peek inside. There was a card inside that he opened and read and then said, "Oh, this is actually for you." He handed it across the table and I had a look. It read, "Welcome to The Press Club. We hope you enjoy your evening and have a wonderful birthday. Best Wishes from our staff." Wow. That's a nice touch, I thought.

Before we could blink, the sommelier approached and asked us if we'd received the card. We said yes and thanked him and he wished me a Happy Birthday too. He got us sorted with some sparkling San Pellegrino and then our waitress appeared dressed in the starched long sleeve orange collared shirt and brown apron that identified the staff. She gave us the menus and explained their layout. On one side are your typical entrees and main courses and on the other side there is a selection of set menus or Kerasma where you determine how many courses you'd like to have and the boys in the kitchen do the rest. They'll pick and choose your dishes for you. Then on a separate sheet, she presented us with the "Symposium" menu which is Chef George Calombaris' 6 course degustation menu. As the waitress explained, "George" as she familiarly referred to him, has taken all of his favourite flavours and tastes from his travels around the world and put them together in this menu. "It's George's baby," she remarked.

So we were left to ponder our options and the tight table arrangements came in handy as we had a bird's eye view of what other people were eating. All the food looked amazing. There wasn't a single thing I saw that didn't appeal to me. I could have eaten any of it. The Handsome Australian and I decided we'd go the whole hog and see what "George's baby" was all about. When the waitress returned, we told her we'd be having the Symposium menu with the wine match. "Easy," she said as she collected the menus and went to inform the kitchen.

She wasn't gone for long and returned with the most cutlery I've ever seen set in one place setting in a restaurant. There were three forks, two knives, a spoon..."We are going to be busy this evening aren't we?" I asked. "You certainly are," she replied with a smile. Our odyssey was underway.

The rest of the evening went like clock work. The sommelier would appear with the wine selection for the course and would give us a brief explanation of the origins of the wine, flavours we could expect to find and why he'd chosen it to match the particular dish we were about to have. He was knowledgeable, friendly and very informative. We enjoyed his visits. We also enjoyed his wines.

As soon as our wine loving friend would step away from the table, our reliable waitress would return and present us with our food. Each dish came with an explanation of ingredients and some required finishing touches at the table which she performed with grace and confidence. We wanted for nothing the entire evening.

Choosing a favourite course from the six is a difficult task (I'll spare you the entire list of courses here but if you are interested go to the The Press Club website and follow the "Menu" link to the "Symposium" menu for complete details), but I adored the chicken and apricot 'horiatiki' while the Handsome Australian was a fan of the slow cooked duck in olive oil, mushrooms, garlic, parsley, Greek kafe and sokolata soil. Both dishes are difficult to describe and walked the fine line between food and art. In a word, delicious.

We ended our meals with coffees, more out of habit than necessity. We were well and truly full to the brim with good wine and good food. It was well after 11pm when we finally settled the bill and strolled out of The Press Club to the sound of a final birthday greeting from our waitress who said, "Oh and Happy Birthday again, Ma'am". I was with her until she hit me with the "Ma'am" at which point I was looking over my shoulder for my mother.

I'm not in a hurry to celebrate another birthday, but if it involves another evening at The Press Club, I might be persuaded to age more rapidly. I'm only kidding...I think.


Erin said...

Gosh, it is only too bad I don't live in Melbourne. You have my mouth watering with your description. Glad you had a great night. Happy belated birthday!

suzinoz said...

Thanks Erin. If you haven't all ready visited Melbourne then you should and when you do, I'll give you a laundry list of places to eat. Come hungry!

Annelise said...

I think the Handsome Australian's love of food has finally rubbed off on you.
Sounds wonderful!

suzinoz said...

I think that happened a long time ago Annelise! When are you coming for a visit? All of this awaits you!!!

Annelise said...

I know! I want to come but I can't get the proper time off to go!