Little Press & Cellar @ 72 Flinders Street, Melbourne
2 February 2011
Little Press & Cellar sits adjacent to George Calombaris’ flagship restaurant, The Press Club, but unlike its up-market sibling, Little Press has managed to avoid the media spotlight since its opening in July 2010 and exists humbly as a Melbourne dining hidden gem. At Little Press, diners are graced by superbly executed dishes that embrace a confident, yet measured, use of audacious flavours. With a primary focus on Greek influenced bar food and small eats, Little Press presents diners with an opportunity to sample a wide range of dishes. Where food is concerned, Little Press is difficult to fault.
We began with an eye catching kataifi wrapped prawn that was flavoured with smoked almond, coriander and chilli popcorn. The combination of the crispy kataifi pastry and the fresh tender prawn was a textural delight, but it was the beautiful amalgamation of sweet, salty and spicy flavours that completed this dish. The somewhat difficult to chew popcorn pieces aside, this prawn creation was thoroughly captivating.
Next to arrive was the dish of spiced quail. While the quail could have been more intensely gamey, the inherent flavour of the quail nevertheless worked in sync with the sweet apricot relish and fragrant Greek salad of coriander leaves, red onion and sour lemon to produce an enlivening dish.
The prosciutto dish was yet another display of a superlative flavour pairing. The saltiness of the cured ham was offset by sweet pickled white peach, with the mildly spiced almonds and endive contributing their respective nuttiness and bitterness to the wonderful collision of flavours.
While potato chips are regarded by many as a staple side dish, they are frequently presented as the neglected child who has been denied due love and attention. Little Press’ chips were a welcome deviation from this norm with each individual chip deep fried to perfection to achieve a crunchy golden skin and a fluffy potato centre. The accompanying “taramosalata” – cod roe dip – was exquisite in taste and an ideal match for the chips. This chip and dip combination alone is worth a return visit to Little Press.
The rotisserie of the day was pork belly served with beetroot tzatziki and Cypriot salad. The decidedly punchy pork flavour married up well with the sweet and earthy beetroot tzatziki, with the generous lining of pork fat providing an added kick of sinful pleasure. Disappointingly however, this dish did lack the flawless execution of the preceding dishes – the meat fell short of juicy tenderness and the crackling was chewy rather than crunchy. While the flavours of this dish were appealing, in light of the dish’s imperfections, the steep price tag of $32 is somewhat difficult to justify.
Our meal finished on a high note with the “sokolata” dessert – a velvety smooth chocolate mousse cake served with Greek coffee soil, cocoa nibs and syrup cherries. This slice of chocolate indulgence was rich with cocoa, texturally diverse and simply a pleasure to eat.
Above all else, dishes should always excite the senses and be executed with finesse. It is clear from the dishes that we sampled on this occasion that the chefs at Little Press have diligently mastered both elements. With the minimal publicity that Little Press has received, somewhat ironic given its affiliation with the media juggernaut that is George Calombaris, Little Press certainly exceeds expectations and is a restaurant that I would enthusiastically recommend.