Sounds like a haunt for elderly, heavy-smoking, heavy-drinking journalists. The Press Club is, in fact, a highly-acclaimed restaurant in Melbourne, Australia and it’s all about modern Greek cookery. The author, George Calombaris, is the head chef at the Press Club and the talent behind this marvellous array of contemporary dishes.
The prospect of modern this or contemporary that tends to send shivers of horror down my spine. Those words often herald plates of artistically-arranged nothing much, or a perfect traditional dish ruined by the use of toenails of virgin seahorses or some other inappropriate ingredient. These are all signs of a chef who is just trying to be different rather than the best. The Press Club, however, has food that is truly different and amusing but also holds to its roots.
The Press Club is a sumptuous book. It reflects the style and quality of the restaurant. No hint of the Greek-themed eateries of amphora and Greek flags over a model of a blue-and-white painted fishing boat. The book is thoughtfully designed and masterfully executed with the help of photographer Dean Cambray. It is a vision of sepia tones and text, with marvellously contrasting photographs of the food.
Yes, the recipes are a little cheffy but not difficult. So much of the success has to do with presentation. Cyprian Pork Pies are nothing like the indestructible, pastry-rich British examples. These are more on the lines of a Lebanese stuffed Kibbe (usually made with lamb). George serves them with his Pine Nut Hoummos (recipe in this book) and a salad of shaved fennel and onion. This gives a clean fresh taste as a counterpoint to the pies.
Feta is not just reserved for Greek salad. George offers Feta Soufflé. This dish isn’t difficult to make and would be an interesting Greek-themed lunch, or a starter followed by some lamb or pork. Scallop Loukoumades are George’s take on tempura (although his grandmother is horrified). The batter is that usually reserved for a traditional dessert.
Lime and Yoghurt Sorbet is simple to make and has few ingredients but would be the most apt and delicious end to a Greek meal… or any other meal. Light and refreshing, it’s a real palate cleanser. Milk sorbet is another summer treat and only has 3 ingredients.
George Calombaris has done a fine job of demonstrating why he is an internationally celebrated chef. We might not all be able to take a trip Down Under but we can all have a little taste of The Press Club.
The Press Club
Author: George Calombaris
Published by: New Holland
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018