After a three-month closure, Waymouth Street institution Press Food & Wine reopened in April with a new look and new direction – one that takes cues from high-end interstate venues such as Rockpool Bar & Grill and Gimlet on Melbourne’s Flinders Lane, according to general manager Meira Harel.

“When I was thinking about the offering around town, [I noticed] there’s heaps of casual places and there’s more wine bars, but there’s no presence of that kind of restaurant,” Harel told Broadsheet in March.

“We have a space that brings that feeling with those high ceilings. And we’ve stripped the darker, more rustic elements and brought a softness and elegance with fine lines, as well as a massive bar in the middle of the room that sets the tone for the type of dining experience it will be.

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“It doesn’t mean we’re fine dining. We’re not stuffy and formal. We’re still a warm and welcoming environment – if you want to have a casual catch up at the bar and drink champagne and eat some oysters, that’s cool. It’s a classic European format and we’re injecting our own personality to it.”

The dramatic ground-floor redesign – courtesy of designer Claire Kneebone and part one of a two-stage reno that’ll see new touches to the upstairs dining room come winter – has completely transformed the space. The timber cladding is gone, replaced by rendered white walls, and the long communal tables have been traded in for more intimate banquette and bar seating. The latter is a significant shift for a venue long associated with communal dining, but it’s one that better reflects the way people want to dine in 2022 (particularly in a post-Covid world), says Harel.

There’s also a new mural by artist and Ngarrindjeri/Arrernte man Thomas Readett on the wall separating the kitchen and walkway.

But the most prominent addition to the former printing house is the elegant, curved Italian-marble bar taking centre-stage in the middle of the room. The strong backbar is stacked with amari, gin, whisk(e)y, rum and brandy, served straight up and in cocktails such as the Smokescreen (whisky, chartreuse, lime), Jasmine Sour (gin, jasmine tea, lemon, grapefruit), Spicy Pirate (rum, pineapple, lemon, chilli) and Press Negroni (with gin, vermouth, orange curacao and bitters).

“The cocktails, same as the wines by the glass and the beers, will constantly change and update and have greater attention to the season,” says Harel. “We’re entering cooler weather, shorter days and longer nights, so we’ll have drinks that are more comforting, have more warmth – and that’ll go with what’s on the plates.”

As for the plates, new executive chef Tom Tilbury (previously at Gather at Coriole and taking over here from long-serving chef-owner Andy Davies) has written up a menu focused on local, ethically harvested and sustainable produce. He’s still finalising the opening week’s dishes when Broadsheet visits, but a preview dinner (ahead of the public unveiling) reveals Gazander oysters served with wakame and a cucumber vinaigrette; choux au craquelin filled with silky chicken liver parfait; a jumble of Ngeringa carrot – served raw, cooked over the woodfired grill and fermented – with toasted buckwheat, caramelised cream and persimmon; and blushing pink strips of dry-aged beef served in a beef-fat vinaigrette with a celeriac mash quenelle.

You're likely to see potato skins, Boston Bay pork ribs and kangaroo tartare on the menu, too.

Tilbury’s also paying homage to some classic Press dishes, including the much loved sweetbreads, the pork (now served three ways with barbeque paste and chicory) and the signature Press burger, available at the bar only.

His appointment is one of several significant changes for the longstanding restaurant. Original owners Davies, Eloise Riggs, Simon Kardachi, Sally Davey and Tim White sold the restaurant in January 2021 to emerging hospitality investor Jay Patel (he’s since purchased Leigh Street Wine Room and Peel St Restaurant, too). Earlier this year Patel brought on Harel as general manager to guide the three venues into their next chapter.

Harel – a former sommelier at Victoria’s Lake House and Town Mouse – has assembled a strong wine list (a standout when Broadsheet dines in is Ruggabellus’s skinsy Sallio blend of riesling, muscat and semillon). Alongside a mix of new-wave and established SA wines is a strong European contingent, as well as representatives of the rest of Australia. “We’ll have wines from the Grampians, Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania and Canberra, and all the way to WA, in Great Southern,” says Harel. Her approach when building the list? “It needs to present sustainable, healthy viticulture and tell a story, and it needs to be delicious.”

Press Food & Wine reopens tonight at 40 Waymouth Street, Adelaide.