Gildas review Surry Hills Review 2022

46-48 Albion St
Surry Hills,
NSW
2010

View map

Opening hours Dinner Tue-Sat
Features Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 8275 8285

What’s this? A ceramic casino chip for a business card? That’s new. The little orange disc accompanies Gildas’ bill at the end of the night and sports a frilly pattern as if it came from a craps table in postwar Argentina. Who knows how much the thing cost to make, but you can bet it was more expensive than printing a phone number on cardboard.

From souvenir business chips to lush local ham, serious money has been spent on the details at Sydney’s most anticipated wine bar opening of the year. There’s brass at every turn, blackbutt flooring, emerald-colored benchtops and eucalyptus-green banquettes. A wavy, two-and-a-half meter sculpture by Sydney-based artist Tan Arlidge hangs by the tiny open kitchen, looking every bit like a used tissue from God.

Chef Lennox Hastie helms the smart-casual joint in partnership with Fink Group (which owns perennially hated Bennelong, Otto and Quay). The pitch is heightened pintxos – those sherry-friendly snacks and small plates native to Spain’s Basque country – and, on a Friday night, the place is buzzing with attractive inner-easters keen to experience Hastie’s cooking in a more accessible format.

Go-to dish: Alubias, jamon broth, pipis and manzanilla sherry. Photo: Nikki To



The guy knows a thing or two about grilling and pintxos, you see, having cooked in the Basque foothills for five years at lauded, wood-fired restaurant Asador Etxebarri.

In 2015, he opened Surry Hills restaurant Firedoor, where top-notch produce is further elevated with smoke, embers and flames. It’s often booked out three months in advance.

Mercifully, half the seats at Gildas are kept for walk-in guests. And – here’s the best bit – you can rock in after 10pm and still order the whole menu. This is rarer than it should be in a city that desperately wants to be taken as seriously as London or New York.

Charred Roman beans with razor clams and lemon oil dressing.

Charred Roman beans with razor clams and lemon oil dressing. Photo: Nikki To



Featherlight churros stuffed with spanner crab (two for $26)? No problem. Charred leeks draped with luscious ribbons of lardo on a bed of nutty romesco sauce ($25)? Perfect after a few at the pub. You can also pop in for a drink before heading to dinner somewhere else in Surry Hills.

Sherry is a big focus and 10 of the fortified wines are poured by the glass. A sea-salty fino from El Maestro Sierra in Jerez ($10) is a cracking aperitif by itself or alongside a gilda, the signature pintxos of anchovy, olive and pickled guindilla pepper.

Both bar and Basque snack are named after the 1946 film noir Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth as a casino kingpin’s wife (ah, now the poker chips make sense). Hastie and head chef Zach Elliott-Crenn thread their gilda ($5) with a fleshy Murray River green olive, Olasagasti anchovy from the Cantabrian Sea, tangy piparra (a traditional Basque green pepper) and preserved lemon. It’s one bite of brightness, brine and punchy depth. Best order two.

Retired dairy cow tartare with oyster cream and sorrel.

Retired dairy cow tartare with oyster cream and sorrel. Photo: Nikki To



You’ll also want a seasonally changing “grillda” ($6), which could showcase gently smoked Ulladulla blue mackerel or Port Lincoln sardine, handsomely tiled with carrot pickled in citrus and chilli.

Pipis ($28) are another must-order, popped open with manzanilla sherry and sitting pretty in a jamon broth with alubia de granja (fat and creamy Spanish butter beans). Springy, hard-crusted bread and smoked butter ($8) are on hand; remember to mop.

Hastie cooks with integrity, skill and sympathy for produce, and it’s refreshing to see a menu that doesn’t strong-arm you into ordering one giant hunk of steak or whole chook to share. Of the larger plates, red meat only features in a velvety tartare of retired dairy cow ($28), buttressed by oyster cream and freshened with sorrel.

The namesake skewers with green olive, anchovy, piparra and preserved lemon.

The namesake skewers with green olive, anchovy, piparra and preserved lemon. Photo: Nikki To



Charred Roman beans ($25) are topped with primal-tasting razor clams, grilled and tinned in north-west Spain. A lemon oil dressing brings everything together. More sherry seems essential, too.

Servings are moderate and a couple could almost order the whole menu over two evenings, including all three desserts. There’s an all-butter pastry tart filled with vanilla-sherry custard and topped with caramelised blood oranges ($15). Also a rich and yolky flan-adjacent tocino de cielo ($14), and – because there’s more going on at Gildas than on a leagues club pokie terrace – there’s smoked buffalo-milk soft-serve with dulce de leche ($14).

Gildas won’t be for everyone. There are people who will whinge about the lack of steak, mutter about “too many vegetables” or complain there’s no Basque cheesecake at a Basque

Smoked buffalo-milk soft-serve with dulce de leche.

Smoked buffalo-milk soft-serve with dulce de leche. Photo: Nikki To



restaurant. That’s fine: let them have their cheesecake and eat it somewhere else. It just means more chips at the table for the rest of us.

Bottom line: this is as good as Spanish dining in Sydney gets.

Vibe: Sherry-fuelled taverna heightened by modern Sydney glam

Go-to dish: Alubias, jamon broth, pipis and manzanilla sherry ($28)

Drinks: Short and well-priced wine list with a focus on Spain and Australia

Cost: About $160 for two, excluding drinks

This review was originally published in Good Weekend magazine

https://gildas.com.au/

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