Gildas Review Surry Hills Review 2022

46-48 Albion St
Surry Hills,

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Opening hours Dinner Tues-Sat
Functions Licensed, Bar, Accepts Bookings
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 8275 8285

What is this? A ceramic casino chip for a business card? That’s new. The small orange disc accompanies Gildas’ bill at the end of the evening and has a fringe pattern as if it came from a craps table in post-war 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 corporate souvenir chips to sumptuous local ham, serious money has been spent on the details during Sydney’s most anticipated wine bar opening of the year. There is brass everywhere, black floors, emerald countertops and eucalyptus green benches. A two-and-a-half meter undulating statue of Sydney-based artist Tan Arlidge hangs by the small open kitchen, looking like a used tissue from God.

Chef Lennox Hastie runs the smart-casual joint in partnership with Fink Group (which owns Bennelong, Otto and Quay). The pitch is elevated pintxos – those sherry-friendly snacks and small plates hailing from Spain’s Basque Country – and on a Friday night the place is buzzing with alluring inner easterners eager to experience Hastie’s cooking in a more accessible form.

Go-to dish: Alubias, ham broth, pipis, and manzanilla sherry. Photo: Nikki Toc

The man knows a thing or two about grilling and pintxos, you see, he spent five years cooking in the Basque foothills at the acclaimed wood-fired restaurant Asador Etxebarri.

In 2015, he opened Surry Hills restaurant Firedoor, where premium produce is further elevated with smoke, embers and flame. It is often fully booked three months in advance.

Fortunately, half of the seats at Gildas are reserved for walk-in guests. And – here’s the best part – you can rock after 10pm and still order the whole menu. This is rarer than it should be in a city so eager to be taken 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 Toc

Feather-light churros stuffed with wrench 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 dining elsewhere in Surry Hills.

Sherry is a big focus and 10 of the fortified wines are served by the glass. A sea-salt fino from El Maestro Sierra in Jerez ($10) makes a delicious appetizer on its own or with a gilda, the signature pintxos of anchovies, olives, and pickled guindilla pepper.

Both the bar and Basque snack are named after the 1946 film noir Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth as the wife of a casino boss (ah, now the poker chips make sense). Hastie and executive chef Zach Elliott-Crenn lace their gilda ($5) with a meaty Murray River green olive, Olasagasti anchovies from the Cantabrian Sea, spicy piparra (a traditional Basque green pepper), and candied lemon. It’s a bite of clarity, brine and spicy depth. Best order two.

Retired dairy cow tartare with oyster cream and sorrel.

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

You’ll also want a season-changing “grillda” ($6), which can feature gently smoked Ulladulla blue mackerel or Port Lincoln sardine nicely tiled with carrot encrusted in citrus and chili.

Pipis ($28) is another must-order, opened with manzanilla sherry and nicely in a jamon broth with alubia de granja (thick and creamy Spanish butter beans). Resilient Hard Crust Bread with Smoked Butter ($8) are on hand; don’t forget to mop.

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

The skewers of the same name with green olive, anchovies, piparra and candied lemon.

The skewers of the same name with green olive, anchovies, piparra and candied lemon. Photo: Nikki Toc

Charred Roman Beans ($25) are topped with primal-tasting razor clams, grilled and canned in northwestern Spain. A lemon oil dressing brings everything together. More sherry also seems essential.

The portions are moderate and a couple could order almost the entire menu over two evenings, including all three desserts. There is a butter tart filled with vanilla sherry custard and topped with caramelized blood oranges ($15). Also a tocino de cielo with rich and eggy flan ($14), and – because there’s more going on at Gildas than on a leagues club pokie terrace – there’s smoked buffalo milk soft serve ice cream with dulce de leche ($14).

Gildas won’t be for everyone. There are people who whine about the lack of steak, mumble about “too many vegetables” or complain that there is no Basque cheesecake at a Basque

Soft ice cream of smoked buffalo milk with dulce de leche.

Soft ice cream of smoked buffalo milk with dulce de leche. Photo: Nikki Toc

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

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

Appearance: Sherry-powered taverna enhanced by modern Sydney glamour

Appetizer dish: Beans, Broth Ham, Pipis, and Manzanilla Sherry ($28)

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

Cost: About $160 for two, excluding drinks

This review was originally published in Good weekend magazine