George Calombaris is getting his Greek on. Shedding the French (PM24), Middle Eastern (St Katherine's) and Italian (Mama Baba) elements of his restaurant empire, he's now firmly focused on his roots, particularly at The Press Club, relaunched this week, which he aims to make "the best modern Greek restaurant in the world".
"I'm at a point where I'm going to concentrate on what I know, what I do well," he says. "And that means going back to Greek."
This new incarnation of The Press Club is a very different beast to its big, bustling predecessor. It's intimate, a 32-seater in the former Press Club bar space given a luxurious $2 million fit out that's all curved leather booths and reflective surfaces. It's unmistakably fine dining, complete with dégustation-only menus (with à la carte options at lunch) called Symposiums that range from $120 to $190 per head. Dishes include mussels with edible shells and a dessert called Smashing Plates with plates made from meringue.
"I really wanted to open a new fine dining place in Melbourne," says Calombaris. "It's not another Reserve, but it's George being playful. I don't want it to be pretentious though. I don't want to forget about the true relaxed spirit of Greek hospitality."
The launch of The Press Club 2.0 is just part of the raft of changes happening at Calombaris' restaurant group, Made Establishment. PM24 will become Lucy Liu, a modern Asian diner with chef Michael Lambie (The Smith) in partnership with George Sykiotis while Mama Baba will become Le Grande Cirque, a French lounge bar with celebrity chef Manu Feildel in partnership with Made Establishment. Both should be open by April next year.
St Katherine's in Kew has recently closed and reopened as Hellenic Republic. Part of the space will open next year as a Greek pastry shop called Sweet Hellenic while another branch of Hellenic Republic will open in Williamstown in July and the souvlaki joint Jimmy Grants will sprout another three outlets, including one at Myer in Melbourne's CBD.
The Press Club, 72 Flinders St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9677 9677.