I arrived with my clever companion at George Calombaris' flagship, The Press Club, to be greeted at the door and summarily shown to our table. My first impression was that I was entering the Forum with Cold Chisel performing. Tables and chairs were placed a bit too close together for my liking and I would quickly learn you can not engage in a private conversation without the guests at the table next to you actively eavesdropping and on occasion actually interrupting you and providing their outlook on life and times. It is something that I would expect to happen at a concert and I believe the proximity of the tables makes it easy for people to befoul social graces. The Press Club also subscribes to the "chefs table" notion so there are a few seats at the border of the loud kitchen. People were having fun, but it just isn't my thing. So besides the Cold Chisel concert of sorts emanating from the kitchen with groupies in the moshpit, I was getting to know my fellow concert-goers by chance and not by choice in the mezzanine.
Like with my other culinary journeys, I was interested in a tour de force, as was my clever companion which did not involve decisions. We opted for the eight course (with one extra 'add on') aptly called the "Symposium" degustation with the wine matching. Every course was "good" but nothing was truly memorable. When I think of other restaurants that I have been to lately, like Pei Modern, I think of the amazing Almond Gazpacho with Blue Swimmer Crab. When I think of Rosetta, my mouth waters when I ponder the wonderful Lobster roasted tomato, mint and chilli Fettuccine and at at Virginia Plain I yearn to return and have Andy Harmer's Ocean Trout cured in Raspberry Vinegar. The problem is despite being "good" nothing was a remarkable stand-out or anything that caused me to obsess over let alone froth at the bit to go back and have again.
The matched wines were issued like rations in a draught and I never was excited to try them. They were interesting but the service that introduced them never got us that excited. Like when Raúl Moreno Yagüe encouraged me to go outside of my comfort zone and try Slovakian and Lebanese wines at Vue de Monde, the education that I received ignited a passion. Probably because service was so blasé about the wines, they were just consumed with no pomp and circumstance or even respect to the grapes that died in battle, which is a shame really.
Service was professional although not overtly engaging throughout the night. They were quite apologetic when it was announced that a chicken dish was being served, the wine was matched and poured appropriately and then a fish dish was placed in front of us. That created some confusion but was probably, if not sadly, the most exciting thing that happened with the menu all night.
I suppose if the bill didn't come to $300 p/p (with a modest tip) I wouldn't be so disappointed. After enjoying some amazing meals that certainly excited and inspired me lately, I have been left instead feeling a bit sad and disappointed with my time at The Press Club. Fortunately I was able to catch up with my clever companion and given this experience was like attending a Cold Chisel concert, these lyrics seem appropriate:
But Oh! Who needs that sentimental bullshit, anyway?
You know it takes more than just a memory to make me cry
And I'm happy just to sit here, at a table with old friends
And see which one of us can tell the biggest lies.
Link to review
72 Flinders Street Melbourne VIC 3000
My Rating: 13/20
Value For Money: 2.75/5
Comment: Can confirm bookings via text
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
When I made this post originally, 68% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked The Press Club.