Gills DinerSeptember 22, 2011
I had read about Gills in the Age Good Food Guide and on another blog a few days earlier, so when choosing where to eat it was the first place to come to my mind. Located on Gills Alley next door to the Commercial Bakery, Gills Diner was originally an extension of the bakery cafe, but in the past couple of years has branched out in rather fancy and delicious french/spanish bistro style food.
I loved the fit-out of Gills instantly; romantic cellar-esque with a high exposed ceiling, white walls, dim lighting, and large windows letting in the yellow light from the laneway lamp outside. The menu is written onto blackboards around the room, and there were beautiful tall candles on the tables and benches. I also loved the paneled window-wall separating the kitchen, and the tables and chairs that looked like old school furniture.
If I weren’t already on a date, I would have remarked to my dining companion, “Gee this’d be an awfully good place for a date!”. It has that perfectly easy atmosphere that isn’t stiflingly romantic, as there are other larger groups, but the crowd is sophisticated and quiet enough that you can sit and chat amongst yourselves without much distraction.
In addition to the interior, I was also instantly enamoured with Gills’ menu (basically I love this place very much). On the night we were there, entrees included leek + fontina croquettes with romesco sauce, some heirloom carrots with yoghurt, quinoa and harissa, and a farmhouse terrine with chutney.
The mains looked even better, and I had tough time choosing what to order. I liked the sound of the beef cheek with celeriac puree, three grains and horseradish, but then I’d heard great things about the zatar pressed pork shoulder, roast pork belly and black pudding with puy lentils. Then again, broccoli risotto with chilli and lemon also sounded interesting. Ahh, so many tempting choices!
In the end, D and I shared two pasta dishes. I began with the special of hand cut squid ink linguine with calamari, roast cherry tomatoes, baby sorrel, basil and lemon zest. This was devine, a delicious combination of flavours and excellently cooked, with a slight bite to the linguine. This was a fantastic dish, I loved the clean, fresh flavours of the tomato and lemon, and the soft pieces of calamari. Fantastic.
The second dish I ate (after we’d swapped) was the gnocchi with duck leg, jerusalem artichoke and pecorino. This was a COMPLETELY different dish, and quite strange to transition from one to the other in two mouthfuls. Nonetheless, also an excellent dish, a rich and mustardy sauce (though not hot) that I mopped up with my bread. I loved the duck with the super-soft pillows of gnocchi, and the jerusalem artichoke provided a nice contrasting crunch.
Unfortunately the photo is grainy from the low lighting.
D isn’t a big dessert eater, but I was keen on the warm chocolate pudding with caramel sauce, peanut butter ice-cream and peanut brittle. D hates all things peanuts, so he did well sitting and watching (and not turning away in revolt) as I ate dessert. I simply loved the ice-cream, combined in one mouthful with the intensely rich chocolate cake was like eating a snickers bar. The peanut brittle stick seemed to me a tad pointless, as it didn’t have much of a taste.
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