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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 29 June 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 29 JUNE 2019 11 RESTAURANTS End of an era for Melbourne’s The Press Club George Calombaris will be launching a new project at the same site in the coming months Right to left, the restaurateurs family. Freddy Tsindos (Tsindos), his uncle Con Tsindos (Edwards Cafe, Toorak), Harry Tsindos (The Greek Restaurant) and George Tsindos (Florentino). We were all friends and we remain friends. At day’s end after closing our shops we would all gather at Stalactites, or another place around here to have a cup of coffee or to eat... “ a problem. Our shops were busy,” he said. Eventful encounters with corrupt policemen entered the conversation. “When we bought Kipseli, the shop was not licensed to serve alcohol. The previous owners, because the shop was a 24-hour one, wanted to serve drinks and gave some rogue police officers money under the table to turn a blind eye. Days after opening Tsindos, I received a call from the Police Commissioner to see him. I was the least overwhelmed. We had done nothing wrong. To cut the long story short he explained to me what happened with the rogue police officers and instructed me not to give in. He gave me his phone number to ring him when they came to collect. I followed his instructions and from that point on we were fine. Things have changed for the better with the police and for worst at Lonsdale street,” he said. Then comes the inevitable comparison. THE NOW Freddy’s face lightened up as he spoke of the past, but words come out with dismay as his trail of thought travels from the glory days to the decaying ones of the present. “Things have changed. These days we work mainly with tourists, Chinese, Indians and of course Greeks from other states who visit Melbourne. Melbourne Greeks don’t come often,” he said, confirming that the Greek Lonsdale Street has died. “Even the future of Tsindos is no longer certain beyond the next four years,” he said. “We are still busy. Lunchtime is slow but evenings are busy. The old days when the clock hit 12.30 noon, the neighbours would come for their lunch. Fountas, Angelidis and others will rock up. Lunch at Tsindos was a tradition that Lonsdale people kept religiously. Now the building has sold, the future is uncertain. We’ll open elsewhere if we have to move but Tsindos in Lonsdale Street will finish. It will be another blow to the Greek history of this street,” he said, hoping his restaurant will remain where it is and carry on the legacy and the memories of the massive presence of Greek immigrants in the centre of Melbourne. ALWAYS... There are some core values on which Freddy built his restaurant and elevated it to still be regarded as a landmark of Greek traditional cuisine in the CBD. “I retired 11 years ago but I still work here sometimes. It makes me feel younger. I like the buzz in the kitchen, I like to cook and pass on my knowledge to the other kitchen staff. That’s what I always did. That’s how I always felt. I never re- gretted becoming a restaurateur. It’s what I know and love. I think some people are made for this job. You need to have the right personality and approach towards your customers to be able to do it. You must be friendly by nature. I never tried to be friendly, that’s who I am.” Good food and respect are the other two equally important elements of the restaurant’s success. “Our food has been the same for 35 years and not by chance; the same ‘traditional’ menu, the same top quality and the same recipes. What has changed is the presentation of the food. Occasionally we added some dishes. You should not be stagnant. You keep your base, you don’t change, you only add,” he says. The coffee is over, It’s 6pm in the afternoon, patrons start to fill the tables and Freddy’s eyes and thoughts leave the table where we are sitting and travel to the ones filled by customers. “Are we finished?” he asks, and before I have the chance to answer, he starts instructing this waiting and kitchen staff making it obvious that for Freddy there is no end to the Tsindos story. It is still being written. The proof cannot be contested: Lonsdale street has been deserted by many Greek businesses but Freddy persevered. And he is still doing just that. I am an Aussie. I am a Hellene. We never stop dreaming, thinking and creating. “ In its thirteenth year, Melbourne's iconic and most high-end Greek restaurant, The Press Club, closes its doors today. "I won't lie. These will be the hardest words I have to write. I am emotional," said George Calombaris when he first announced the news on Instagram. "I can't stop crying but I know good things have to come to an end. The Press Club has given me everything. Not just me but also thousands who have experienced it." The famous Master Chef judge that opened the prestigious The Press Club back in 2006, said that it was a longtime dream of his that came true to put Hellenic ideas on the map. In its lifetime, the venue welcomed over 600,000 guests and took Mr Calombaris around the globe. Initially, The Press Club was located where Gazi is, then Mr Calombaris moved his high-end venture to a smaller, more boutique fit-out next door. "Yes, it's the end. And also the beginning," he said, emotional, but also determined to always look forward. "Now, it's time for a new chapter and to write a whole new book. On 29 June 2019 we will serve our final menu before we enter an exciting phase of reinvention. We are incredibly proud of the past and now more than ever, inspired by the future," he added. For the days leading up to the final dinner, the Greek Cypriot chef and his team created a menu combining the flavours of Greece with some of the best produce Australia has to offer. The tasting menu consisted of a series of smaller dishes allowing to experience more flavours between main dishes designed to take diners and their taste buds to Greece and back again. Three different degustation menus were put together, the Alpha Journey, the Lamda Journey and the Omega Journey. "I am an Aussie. I am a Hellene. We never stop dreaming, thinking and creating. We make mistakes. Lots of them. The Press Club will always be in my heart and soul - 12 years of memories. More than a restaurant; it's a place that creates stories, innovation, love and life. (....) Thank you for your support. To the next chapter." Calombaris will keep ownership of the site but will be turning it into a different project, "an exciting phase of reinvention" as he called it.
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