Press Food & Wine

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date of visit: Thursday 29 April 2012

Press* Food & Wine on Waymouth Street has been on my list for quite a while. It’s bizarre because while I think I eat out a reasonable amount a lot of restaurants languish on the list for far, far too long.

Anyway, last week I attended a Château Coutet tasting at Press and decided that I should have my dinner there too. After all, once I was in the building it would have been rude not to.

Press is divided into two areas: downstairs it’s a bar with big communal tables and upstairs it’s a very trendy restaurant. It has a distinct warehouse feel to it but fortunately they’ve gone with quite a few soft furnishings so you don’t feel like you’re in an echoing cavern. Full marks to whoever decided to have proper upholstered seats rather than wooden or plastic ones. Golly – I sound like a right old grandma!

The menu for Press is online and if you, or your friends, are picky eaters in any way, I suggest you check out the menu before heading there. It’s very meaty. Don’t take your vegetarian friends. There are a few vegetarian dishes (mainly salads) but selective eaters are, quite decisively, not the target market.

What is very exciting about Press is that there’s a section of the menu dedicated to offal. And that’s where I started. At present they have sweetbreads which are one of my favourite things but we were with a friend who wanted to try them so I went with the lambs’ brains served with potato salad.

But I’m jumping the gun! What about service? What about drinks? What about entrées?

I’m hesitant to comment too much about service because Press’s sommelier had been at the tasting and I always wonder if you get slightly different service if you’re known to staff. So I’ll limit my comments on service to saying that, in general, we found it very good although there was quite a long pause between entrée and main. If you’re in a hurry, it might be best to let your waiter know in advance.

For entrée we went for steak tartare, the fennel salad (under the raw section of the menu – it was huge) and the chargrilled squid with chipotle mayonnaise. I shared the squid and it was excellent. It was tender and had that really great chargrilled yet slightly caramelised taste and the chipotle mayo had just the right amount of heat. To accompany our entrées we opted for wine by the glass – 2 glasses of an Italian Kerner and one glass of a Gamay from the Northern Rhône.

Yes, wine geeks will no doubt find that selection interesting. Because I was feeling lazy I’d put our drink choices in the hands of the sommelier. As Press has an interesting wine list that features things you won’t come across every day, I recommend you do the same.

With our main courses we had a bottle of the Alpha Box & Dice Touriga Nacional. It was fantastic and got top marks from everyone at the table.

Main courses: Andy chose the grilled pork belly which looked absolutely beautiful (I was lucky enough to get some crackling and that was good). My lambs’ brains and potato salad was excellent. It’s quite a small portion (it only cost $16) but it was perfect for me after the squid. Lambs’ brains are super rich (let’s face it, your brain is just a big ball of fat) and I was sceptical about how potato salad would work with them. Press’s potato salad worked really well – the potatoes were finely diced so it looked appealing and didn’t overwhelm the brains and the weight of the potatoes acted as a really sound counterpoint to the lightness of the brains. While rich, the salad dressing had a good zing to it from the capers, so you didn’t feel like you were only eating rich food. I thought this was a really well thought out and executed dish.

The sweetbreads got a big tick from the sweetbread novice. They were honey and anise roasted and she was really pleased with how the anise came through. I had a taste and, while the flavours were good I thought they were a touch overcooked – they had just started to become a little bit tough. Not as good as Eden’s sweetbreads, that’s for sure.

We were tempted by dessert (in particular, I was tempted by the fact they had Epoisses on the cheese menu) but it was a school night and getting late so we wrapped up with coffees.

The bottom line came to $80 a head (including a small tip) which sounds really expensive but you should remember that almost half of that was drinks. You could spend less and come out both well fed and watered. And happy.

I’ll definitely be heading back to Press and I have no doubt that my dad will be there in the very near future. It’s fantastic to see an increasing number of restaurants offering more offal and not relying on the standard cuts of meat.

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