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The much anticipated rebirth of George Calombaris’ The Press Club as Gazi is now complete, with doors to the revamped restaurant first opening to public back in late May. Given my highly memorable and enjoyable dining experience at The Press Club prior to its closure earlier this year, I approached Gazi with both excitement and reservation. After all, high expectations are often met with disappointments.
Long gone are the white table clothes that once brought an air of elegance and fanciness to The Press Club, and instead, a more casual arrangement now fills the space, which suits the street food-styled menu to a T. The wow factor comes in various forms; starting with the obvious hanging terracotta pots that cover the ceiling (eye-catching even from the outside) to the more subtle details like the reflective mirror layer underneath the hanging light shades and the rain damage effect on the exposed walls. Combined with the dim atmosphere, the loud music and equally loud chatter that filled the venue on a Friday night provided the perfect after work environment to escape from, well, work.
Mati, the evil eye.
A quick preview of their menu before our lab visit had placed thoughts of ordering one of their delectable-sounding souvlakis in mind (soft shell crab or chip-filled souvlaki anyone?), but the boss man had other ideas. We ended up with the ‘Doing it Greek Style’ 10 dish sharing menu, which I was more than happy with; 10 dishes easily trumps two or three.
Hommus, fried chick peas dip.
The tzatziki was super fresh and well-salted. The cucumber presence was evident and the inclusion of dill boosted the overall flavour profile. And to match the perfect dip was a side of perfect flat bread. Served warm, the bread was soft, tender and tasted fresh out of the oven/pan. Between my shots and note-taking, I missed out on trying the hommus dip; the table was cleared (without warning) before the next course came out.
Cheese - saganaki, kumquat mustard glyko.
The saganaki possessed a pleasant salted crunch in its melted skin, but the flavour of the cheese itself was a bit too overpowering for my taste buds.
Prawns - braised in olives, capers, onions, garlic & parsley.
The prawns were surprisingly big (no skimping on size), and tasted juicy and fresh. The cooking ingredients culminated in a light flavour overall, allowing the prawns to shine. I enjoyed the refreshing bursts of coriander flavour immensely.
Chips - tiganites patates, oregano, garlic oil & feta.
Think thick cut, crunchy and herbed chips, like those served at Grill’D, and throw in some salted feta crumbs… Cheese + fried potato = serious noms. I would go back for these chips alone…
Marouli - ice berg lettuce, lemon, olive oil, oregano, parmesan.
The salad may have looked like a boring slab of iceberg lettuce, but it tasted anything but boring. The drizzle of olive oil and zesty lemon formed a light but tasty dressing, and the herbs and cheese added much aromatic flavour.
Pork Belly (wood fire spit) - white beans, apple skordalia.
We had been warned that the pork was ‘highly addictive’, but I had brushed the warning aside, under the assumption that it was something they just said to everyone. They weren’t kidding… The crackling was ah-mazingly crunchy and did NOT get stuck to my molars as I chewed (win!), and the pork was gorgeously succulent. The apple puree was quite sweet, and the texture of the beans added substance to the puree. The savouriness of the pork and the slight saltiness of the crackling blended in perfectly with the sweetness from the apples.
Chicken (wood fire spit) - white beans, tirokafteri.
Cooked perfectly, the chicken was super tender, and its herbed rub and the grilling process imparted plenty of flavour. Already tasty when eaten solo, the capsicum dip-like puree heightened the flavours on the plate.
The fish was also well-cooked, and the flesh fell apart as soon as I sunk the knife into it. In the mouth, it just melted. The flavours were comparatively bland next to the pork and chicken, but the capsicum puree from the chicken dish was able to work its magic on the fish.
Brulee - date, Turkish Delight crumble.
Gazi’s take on the creme brulee came in the form of a cool, smooth custard topped with chopped nuts, pieces of Turkish Delight, dates and caramelised sugar shards that resembled pop rock candy. It was definitely not your typical brulee topping, and the crumble was full of contrasting and yet complementary flavours and textures. I had detected a subtle citrus presence in the custard that paired well with the crumble. Overall, it wasn’t the prettiest-looking dessert, but it tasted great.
Loukomathes (greek donuts) - cocoa nibs, honey.
The greek donuts tasted bland after consumption of the custard, but its crispy, fried texture was show-stopping. Much of the sweetness came from the honey glaze, which didn’t bode well for me given my dislike of honey. The cocoa nibs added some texture and a feint chocolaty bitterness that lingered after the taste of honey faded. A miss for me, but there were a few fans at our table who were more than happy to finish off the rest of the donuts.
I had walked out of The Press Club half a year ago with a smile from ear to ear, and left Gazi with the same smile and satisfaction. It’s back to basics with the menu selections on offer, but the execution of the dishes, in both presentation and particularly flavour, remains impeccable and
mind palate-blowing. I look forward to my return to Gazi for those souvlakis…
2 Exhibition St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9207 7444