For executive chef Reuben Davis, the Elektra x Lune butter chicken croissant is the epitome of what he wants his new restaurant to be.
“Everything is done the right way,” Davis tells me. “But it doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Elektra is the latest diner by Made Establishment, which until recently was fronted by celebrity chef George Calombaris, and has been in the headlines of late for staff underpayment issues (Calombaris now heads up the kitchen at Hellenic Republic Brighton). In April 2017, the company began back-paying staff $2.6 million in wages, before it was revealed in July this year that that figure was much higher – totalling $7.8 million between 2011 and 2018.
“Let’s not shy away from it. Things have happened and it’s good to talk about it. The industry needs to grow and change,” Davis says. “The directors and I and the team are fully supportive of those changes.”
In March this year, before that second figure was released, Made and Calombaris announced that The Press Club, the Flinders Lane Greek fine diner of more than 20 years, would close. A few weeks ago it was resurrected as Elektra – notably sans-Calombaris – with long-time Press Club chef Davis running the show.
“I’d like to think we can move on, and the evidence I’ve had so far of people coming in is that people are willing to look past that,” says Davis. “They are giving us a chance with what we’re doing. They’re not judging us before they get here, which is all we can ask for. Once they get here, they can judge us. Go for gold.”
Aesthetically, Elektra takes cues from the old diner, but overall it’s more pared back and more accessible.
“I just wanted to make it less top-button-done-up and more somewhere that I’d go on my day off. Without ripping it apart, because that’s not always necessary,” Davis says. “We wanted it to be a bit more relaxed and vibey, rather than only for a special occasion.”
Some of the camel-coloured leather booths remain, along with the gold mirror wall – and as a result, so too does the sense of stepping into a private jet. But now there are high tables and stools, a chef’s table for two in the kitchen downstairs, and a snack menu on the wall – hot oysters in bacon butter; hash browns with trout roe and tarama; mussels and broad beans on toast – reinforcing the idea that this is the kind of place you might wander past and drop into on a whim.
Head in between 5pm and 6pm for happy hour, where natural oysters are $2 a pop and the bar staff will custom-build a spritz to your taste for $12. If you’re waiting for a table you can grab a seat near the self-serve minibar, which stocks piccolos of champagne, pre-batched cocktails (such as the King Otto, which is a bit like a Negroni with sweet vermouth, tsipouro – a Greek brandy – and Campari), little jars of olives and tins of anchovies.
Once you’re seated, Davis’s menu leans modern European, rather than the refined Greek of its predecessor. “It’s humbler in the style of cooking,” he says. “We’re still using Australian produce, but leaning on a bistro style where the dishes change regularly. You can come back once every couple of weeks and try something new.”
Start with the aforementioned croissant, which comes stuffed with butter chicken and with pickles on the side. A warm salad of witlof, fresh tangelo segments and grilled chicken livers from Milking Yard Farm in Trentham comes with a cognac, madeira and mustard dressing. There’s a cheeseburger with shiitake ketchup, vintage cheddar from Devon in the UK (Davis’s home town), coleslaw and mayo on a milk bun. And veal schnitzel is served on the bone with a salad of parsley, fried capers and anchovies on top, and a tonnato-style tomato and tuna sauce underneath.
There are 30 local and international wines on the list, compiled by sommelier Frederico Bianco, all available by the glass. The team also has a few special bottles – some old Press Club stock – if you’re looking to spend a little more.
For dessert, choose from a gin-soaked trifle, a treacle tart with liquorice ice-cream, and a selection of cheeses served with a semi-sweet treacle bread – a recipe borrowed from the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham, where Davis worked as sous chef.
Or go for a cocktail instead. The Pina Collins takes chilli-infused rum and blends it with pineapple, falernum and lemon, and there’s the Bedsheet Companion with rye whiskey, muscat, maple syrup and orange bitters. There are also five zero-proof cocktails.
72 Flinders Street, Melbourne
(03) 9677 9677
Tue to Sat 5pm–late