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  1. Guests enjoying dinner at Gildas
    Photograph: Nikki To
  2. Two gildas
    Photograph: Nikki To
  3. The pan sobrasada with pickled shallots
    Photograph: Nikki To
  4. The beautiful dining room at Gildas
    Photograph: Nikki To
  5. The leeks with romesco and lardo
    Photograph: Nikki To
  6. The fig tart at Gildas
    Photograph: Nikki To
  7. Lennox Hastie stands with his arms crossed next to a wood fire kiln
    Photograph: Nikki To

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Lennox Hastie’s second Sydney venture pays homage to his time living in Basque country – and it's a triumph

Just like Egypt’s soaring pyramids and Miley Cyrus’s ‘Flowers’, the Gilda is a masterpiece. Consisting of a vinegary guindilla pepper, a plump briny olive and salty anchovy all held together on a tiny stick, the best-known of all Spain’s pintxos is a flavour knock-out. At Gildas, Lennox Hastie’s second Sydney restaurant after can’t-get-a-booking Firedoor, the chefs have put their own touch on arguably the world’s greatest snack, adding a sliver of cheek-sucking preserved lemon. The result, like we said, is a masterpiece. We’ll take another, please.

Some context. The Gilda was a snack first created in San Sebastian in 1946, around the time of the release of the film Gilda, starring American bombshell Rita Hayworth (as a character named Gilda). Hastie’s new Surry Hills wine bar and restaurant, which he owns in partnership with the Fink Group (Bennelong, Otto Ristorante and Quay) is named after both stars. (And in case we miss that fact, upon receiving our bill we’re handed some matchsticks featuring none other than Gilda in a flaming red dress. Nice touch.)

To say there was some keen anticipation ahead of the opening of Gildas in late 2022 would be putting it gently. Thanks to his Netflix Chef's Table episode, as well as the success of Firedoor, Hastie’s name is now mainstream. Born in England to a Scottish mum and Aussie dad, Hastie has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK, France and Spain, before moving to Australia in 2011. And while Firedoor is known for food cooked with fire, Gildas is inspired by Hastie’s time living in Basque country (a region in northern Spain).

It’s a chilly Wednesday evening when we visit, dark already at 6pm, and we’ve got what can only be described as butterflies. Not quite first-date butterflies. More like the soft flutter of excitement when you know you’re about to experience something great.

Inside is warm and glowing, buzzing with after-workers, the room split into casual seating at the bar and chef’s table in front, and lower seating on the other side. Tables are topped with marble, windows are arched, banquettes are olive green, and there are brass finishings everywhere you look. (Other than green, the only pop of colour comes from a fun collage artwork by NSW-based artist Toni Clarke.) The result is a handsome and elegant space, the ideal foundation to drink and eat with friends.

We’re seated at the high table right in front of the open kitchen that's led by head chef Zach Elliott-Crenn, and in our opinion, it’s the best seat in the house. It’s impressive to see the chefs cook, moving in a considered, thoughtful and almost graceful way – kinda like fast tai chi, but with knives. Plus, it’s cool to be handed your dish by the chefs. Elliott-Crenn, who is the former head chef of Michelin-starred London restaurant Portland, is a calm and damn-fine leader, and we don’t hear him raise his voice once.

We’re thirsty, so we do as the Spanish do and start with a glass of sherry, thanks to a knowledgeable waiter who knows the two-page fortified wine menu like Nadal knows a tennis court. A glass of Fino Bodegas Tradicion is clean and fresh, and we can taste a touch of minerals, olive brine and a hint of sweetness; the Bodega Yuste 'Aurora' Amontillado sherry is more creamy and gives caramel and hazelnut vibes.

After our aforementioned two gildas, we move to the grillda – a succulent cube of lightly cured cobia, slid onto a tiny stick, followed by charred cucumber and a caperberry doused in cava vinegar. The acid cuts through the fatty fish, and that, combined with the salty crunch from the caperberry, again results in a fine and tasty snack. So far, so good.

Next, garlicky pork sausage livened up with paprika is slathered onto thin toasted bread as if it were butter – it's then topped with rings of pickled shallot, dainty leaves of floral thyme, and a trickle of honey. Peddling the perfect balance of sweet, salty and spice, the pan sobrasada is the pimped-up version of chorizo on toast, and we do not want it to end.

But there’s no time for tears when a pretty bowl of octopus is placed in front of us. Five grilled baby molluscs with pimentón (basically paprika, but better) are surrounded by braised chickpeas cooked in a savoury pork broth, which is kicked into gear by sherry and apple cider vinegar and dotted with preserved lemon and parsley. Topped with fried spigarello (a leafy green vegetable – watch out, kale chips) and chickpea shoots, it's a deeply comforting dish. It tastes like the kind of thing we could imagine ourselves devouring in front of a fire with crusty bread come winter.

Vegetables are actually the stars of the show here at Gildas, and perhaps the main act is a plate of charred leeks draped in silk-like translucent lardo, served with a dollop of vibrant romesco sauce and a scattering of toasted hazelnuts. The leeks – which are sliced down the middle and turned upwards so the flesh looks like pages of a torched book – are sweet, juicy and full of flavour. Coupled with the soft melting fat and nutty rich sauce, it’s a slam dunk of a dish and makes us think this won’t be the last we will see of ye old wallflower leeks.

We pair this with a glass of crisp and light skin contact, La Maldicion Malvar from Madrid, which has a light apricot and nectarine flavour. The wine list, which features drops from Spain, France, Portugal and Australia, is broken up into different regions. The cocktail list is succinct, with a Martini and Negroni, plus a few more, like the ‘Rita’, with white rum, plum and mint.

We are drawn to a dessert of ricotta soft serve with cherry juice and pistachio, but a rustic fig tart has been on display next to us all night and we can’t get it out of our minds (and hearts). Plated simply with sheep's yogurt, the tart is gleaming thanks to a sherry glaze, the figs soft and jammy, and the pastry is perfectly crumbly, buttery and not too sweet.

Every artist of a one-hit wonder, or really, any artist at all, knows how difficult it is to back it up with a banger. With Gildas, Hastie has not only met expectations, he’s transcended them. While servings are on the smaller end and there isn’t a Basque cheesecake in sight, Gildas is a beautiful tribute to the tapas bars that celebrate the best things in life – good food, good wine, and great company. And that is something we can definitely get behind. 

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Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


46-48 Albion St
Surry Hills
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