There’s something in the air at Gimlet. A sense of anticipation and unadulterated enjoyment; a palpable celebration that the 2020s can deliver something so wonderfully and glitzily 1920s (pre-crash, of course).
Walk into the glamorously retooled Art Deco beauty Cavendish House on the corner of Russell and Flinders Lane and you’re whisked to another era, when people dressed for dinner and seafood arrived on silver platters. There are twinkling chandeliers and horseshoe-shaped booths, rippled glass and winking brass – and bless the amphitheatre-like tiered seating for making it easy to spy on the media-influencer-politico-celebutant faces flocking here like moths to a flame.
Sigh. Andrew McConnell’s latest addition to his glittering restaurant portfolio (Cutler and Co, Cumulus Inc, Marion et al) is a full-throated celebration of occasion dining. The soul of a New York steakhouse spliced with the DNA of a Parisian bistro is pure restaurant classicism, with subtle mod-Oz flourishes carbon-dating it to the modern era.
So you’re thinking it all sounds wonderful yet achingly expensive? Well, yes, it can be – especially when you factor in a wine list that favours the bravery of interesting small producers, both Old World and New, whose back stories, as told by the crack team of sommeliers, encourage rummaging ever deeper into the pockets. If that dangerous undertow is to be avoided, our advice is simply this: grab a bar table, order the delicious house cocktail (the gin and lime-driven Gimlet is one sophisticated sipper) and dabble around the snack menu for a less financially onerous good time.
This is most certainly the place if you want wood-grilled lobster or a showy caviar service (for not only must one enjoy caviar; one must be seen to be enjoying caviar). But there’s no denying the charms of bresaola-topped gnocco fritto puffs spilling their parmesan cream guts. Or melting slices of saucisson scattered with green Sicilian olives. Or perhaps velvet-textured swatches of cured kingfish, skewered so you can eat them like lollipops with their piquant orange-and-caper dressing.
You won't be ‘explained’ the menu at Gimlet. Appetisers, entrées and mains assert the old-fashioned virtues. But it’s mostly engineered with easy sharing in mind, facilitated by intuitive waiters armed with the full quiver of serving cutlery. Trottole pasta – like curly pigs’ tails – with deshelled tiger prawns in a luscious bisque sauce pepped up with the subtle Sicilian-isms of fried eggplant, pine nuts and currants would be one helluva rich ride as a solo dish. And there’s no point even debating the share status of the T-bone – all 900 grams of dry-aged, grass-fed beefiness, wood-cooked into pink-centred, charry-crusted perfection – with its condiment sidekicks of béarnaise, French mustard and horseradish cream.
Despite its young age, Gimlet has already asserted itself as one of the city’s most compelling reasons to head out once again. It’s glam, it’s fun, it’s delicious. And while it can certainly be expensive, it’ll make you feel like a million bucks.