George Calombaris’s The Press Club is turning over a new (vine) leaf. The Greek fine dining institution landed on Exhibition Street in 2006, in the space now home to laid-back eatery Gazi. Seven years later, Calombaris shipped his flagship diner next door to its current, more intimate home on Flinders Street. It’s now about to undergo a much more dramatic change.
“We’re in a really exciting place at the moment,” Calombaris says. “It’s been 13 years and a lot has happened in that time, especially in the last couple. We’ve got some amazing individuals on the team. We’re hugely ambitious.”
The Press Club’s closure was announced in March. After its final service on Saturday, it’ll undergo a quick transformation before reopening as casual, wine-focused eatery Elektra in late July.
Elektra will be headed up by current Press Club executive chef Reuben Davis, and is named after the Greek goddess Electra (Calombaris subbed out the “c” as it doesn’t exist in the Greek alphabet). It’ll have a wine list to rival that of the Press Club’s, but with 30 varieties available by the glass, allowing the team to mix things up more easily.
“This new incarnation is going to be the kind of place that – as a hospo person – I want to hang out at. The list we’ve put together, everything we’ve chosen is delicious, and – oh my god – it’s not all natural,” Calombaris says, laughing. “I’m not knocking those places, but this is just the stuff we want to drink and eat.”
That broad brief is a very deliberate move, giving the chefs more flexibility and freedom than the highly technical Press Club menu allowed, but it also makes it tricky to pin down exactly what Elektra is all about, cuisine-wise.
Greek fare is almost all Made Establishment – through which Calombaris also runs a string of Jimmy Grants and Hellenic Republic locations – has ever done. But Calombaris and Davis aren’t abandoning those roots. There’ll be nods to Calombaris' Grecian heritage, but they’ll also be coaxing in flavours from elsewhere in Europe and further abroad, including India.
The tight à la carte offering will include just 10 dishes, with four to five snacks followed by a few larger plates. Ideas being thrown around at the moment include oysters with bacon butter; a spanner-crab omelette; camembert wrapped in vine leaves, then salt-baked and served hot with hasselback potatoes; and tandoori-spiced octopus charred over coals and served with pickled lime on the side.
“We just really want to create something more relaxed,” Calombaris says. “If it’s a place that we don’t want to eat in every night, why the hell would anyone else want to?”
The restaurant’s superyacht-like interior will undergo a minor facelift.
The Press Club’s final service is on June 29, and Elektra is due to open in late July.