Gills Diner

You never know what is going to be down a laneway in Melbourne. It could be a cool new bar, an art installation, or down Gills alley just off little Collins street, Gills Diner. A sign saying ‘Gills Diner: Bread and Wine’ points the way and reminded me of St John’s Bread and Wine in London. The sign suggests a simple, pared back focus and a no frills aesthetic. The buzzing eatery has a cafe section at the front and then a larger room at the rear which is the restaurant proper. The look is industrial chic with big wooden tables surrounded by the type of wooden and metal chairs that I used to sit on at school. I kept on expecting my old English teacher to emerge from the kitchen. We were a table of ten so we got a table to ourselves but smaller groups share tables. Frosted glass windows with metal trim separate the kitchen from the restaurant. Arriving at 8pm we were surprised to find the restaurant was half empty but by about 10pm it was completely full, Gills Diners patrons must be a bunch of night owls.

Laneway sign pointing the way to Gills Diner
There is no written menu so you order from a blackboard on the back wall or choose from the specials reeled off by the waiters suggesting a menu which is changed regularly. Head chef Kyle Doody’s food is rustic and hearty and there was lots on the blackboard that tempted. A great way to try out the menu is to order the antipasto selection which is actually a serving of three of the entrees for $32. Of these entrees the herb encrusted lamb cutlet was on the difficult side to share but was perfectly juicy and pink inside its crisp crust. It was a winner of a dish which left us fighting over who got to gnaw at the bone. Also good was a shallow dish of salt cod salad which looked as pretty as picture with a rainbow of colours scattered with squares of dry cod. Was it a dessert or was it an entree? I wasn’t quite sure what the zucchini and blue cheese pannacotta was but it was creamy and rich and that is what counts in my books.

Salt cod salad

The pick of the mains was the marinara ($30) which was a simple dish containing generous chunks of salmon and shellfish and an added kick of chilli. It wasn’t anything different or fancy just good, honest food. The roasted duck makes a regular appearance on the menu and it impressed with its blush pink meat and crisp, dark skin splayed on a bed bitter radachhio ($29). The only let down was the raviolo of pork and tarragon ($27) which was served in a clear broth. I misread the menu as ravioli (multiple) instead of raviolo (singular) so found myself with one huge raviolo surrounded by broth rather than the host of merrily bobbing ravioli I had been anticipating. Unfortunately the raviolo itself was a little on the bland side and needed a bit more seasoning to lift it up a notch.

Herb crusted lamb cutlet

Like the rest of the food on offer, the desserts at Gills Diner were simple and comforting. An Eton mess style offering of strawberries, cream and meringue was light and airy. I am still dreaming about Gills churros which were served fresh, sugary and piping hot with a pot of chocolate to dip them in. The wine list was small but interesting with lots of unusual producers and beer drinkers were not neglected with a range of boutique ales on offer.

Duck

Gills Diner is a fashionable looking restaurant with a palpably buzzing atmosphere but it is saved from being too cool by the friendly and down to earth waiting staff who carefully explained dishes to us. Our waiter even helpfully rushed through the meal of a friend who arrived and ordered at a later stage than everyone else so that all our meals arrived at the same time. The staff were happy for us to linger over our drinks until we were the last ones in the restaurant at almost midnight.

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Essentials

Details: 360 Little Collins Street, Melbourne CBD, Australia (Ph +61 3 9670 7214).
Damage: Pricey

8/10

Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my post on my top ten restaurants in Melbourne (I think I might have to update it to include Gills) or in my review of St John Restaurant in London, a very different restaurant but perhaps a source of inspiration for the ethos at Gills Diner.

Gills Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted by: on March 10th, 2010     7 Comments »

Category: City, Dinner, European
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7 Comments on “Gills Diner”

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said at 1:09 pm on March 10th, 2010:

    I love the sound of this place and how it’s saved from being overly cool by having great staff!

  2. Greedy Diva said at 2:41 pm on March 10th, 2010:

    You’re making me home sick! Stop this at once! When are you coming back to London?

  3. The Greasy Spoon said at 6:30 pm on March 10th, 2010:

    The Salt Cod looks good.. Just had some in a Portuguese cafe in the South Lambeth Road…

  4. jo said at 2:07 am on March 11th, 2010:

    I still dream about that duck – it was divine!

  5. Gourmet Chick said at 3:28 am on March 14th, 2010:

    Lorraine – you will have to check it out when you are in Melbourne next

    Greedy Diva – at airport on my way home now – think weather is going to be a bit of a shock to the system!

    The Greasy Spoon – They seem to use a lot of salt cod in Portugese cooking – I think it is from the times when the Portugese were great explorers and seafarers. I am actually in Sri Lanka at the moment and they also use a lot of dried fish in their curries as well.

    Jo – Hello! The duck was the pick of the bunch I think. Lucky you can go back to Gills whenever you want – I have to wait until next time I am in Melbourne.

  6. Ashley said at 11:25 am on March 17th, 2010:

    Oh wow, that duck just looks greaat! My friend and I have been talking about visiting this place for a while, but I keep hearing old mixed reviews about it.

    Great to see a newer review, and am quite interested now! :]

  7. Gourmet Chick said at 3:57 pm on March 19th, 2010:

    Ashley – I hope you enjoy it. Let me know how it goes.


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