The former site of the Press Club (and later Elektra) once again welcomes diners, although George Calombaris’ upscale Greek cuisine has given way to modern Indian cuisine, performed by Eastern Spice owner Manpreet Sekhon in Geelong and from Masti to Fitzroy.
Sekhon, who has been cooking professionally for almost 20 years, said Elchi will offer a contemporary dining style rarely seen outside India.
“I want to change the world’s view of Indian cuisine,” she says. “That kind of ambition requires a Flinders Street address.”
Determined to secure what she considers the finest dining hall in the city, on the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth streets, Sekhon was in talks for 18 months to lease the site after Made Establishment closed in early 2020. She retained the distinctive curvature of the Press Club. cabins and gilded ceilings, and added plants and bar tables to increase capacity from 32 seats to 60.
Even the name of the restaurant reveals its purpose. Elchi means ambassador – Sekhon feels she represents her own cuisine and heritage on Flinders Street.
Less curry means more room for the likes of bhel, a crispy snack of puffed rice, potatoes, buckwheat, corn, and peanuts, and chicken musallam, an egg-stuffed chicken in garam masala and cashew paste, with an Instagram-worthy finish of gold foil.
But despite his goals and the dramatic room, Sekhon hopes his third restaurant will still be accessible and has set prices to reflect that, with entrees between $22 and $32.
She is part of a vanguard of chefs pushing the boundaries of Indian cuisine in Australia, including Helly Raichura of Enter Via Laundry (due to open in Carlton at the end of March), Mischa Tropp (currently curating pop-ups offering lesser-known dishes), and Harry Mangat of Biji Dining, which mixes Indian and Indigenous Australian flavors.
Open Wednesday-Sunday 12-3pm, 5pm-late, 2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 6717, elchirestaurant.com.au