Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gills Diner

Melbourne is renowned for its alleys and laneways, many of which conceal hidden gems. You need to keep your eyes open when walking down the streets of the Melbourne CBD, and if you see an alley or a laneway, take a peek down it - you never know what treasure you might find.

Gills Diner is one such treasure, hidden in Gills Alley off Little Collins Street (between Queen and Elizabeth Streets). It is one of those "blink and you'll miss it" kind of places, with only a metal sign on the unassuming concrete outer wall to let you know that it exists.

Inside, Gills is a popular, bustling eatery, from which the devine smell of freshly baked bread beckons (as Gills operates as a bakery during the day):

The dining area at Gills is packed with bare topped timber tables, set neatly with blue rimmed plates and starched white napkins:

On the evening that Tim and I visited, we did not have a reservation, but the friendly and efficient staff promptly found us a place at a white-painted bench with stools that divides the main dining area with large tables from the smaller side area with tables for two. I preferred the quieter area where we were seated, as it was out of the bustle of the main dining room, making it a better option for conversation, and was slightly darker and more mysterious. Think
the main dining area of Ricks Diner in Casablanca versus the back room where Rick splutters, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns ..."

Shortly after being seated, we were served with a bread basket containing a variety of breads:

We had eaten the best slices (a salt-crusted sourdough with a soft, snowy interior) before I remembered to take a photo of the remaining slices of baguette. Drinks followed shortly thereafter - in my case, a refreshing peach Bellini (haven't had one of those since
Hakkasan in London over 8 years ago!), and in Tim's case, a glass of red.

The menu is written on a number of chalkboards around the restaurant, and presumably changes daily. On the night of our visit, there were many tempting entrees, including stuffed zucchini flowers (which I am yet to try), but we decided just to go for mains. It says a lot that I could have ordered anything on the menu and been happy - it all sounded very good. However, I settled on roast duck with a pine nut and pumpkin risotto:

The duck skin was coated with a lovely sweet, sticky sauce (which I could not identify), and was moist and tender within. The skin was not particularly crisp, although it was flavoursome. The risotto was a perfect accompaniment, because its flavours were subtle enough that they did not compete with the duck, but were not so subtle as to make the risotto bland. It was also perfectly done - the grains of rice came apart easily, and it did not leave a "gloggy" mouth-feel. (I can appreciate the skill in this, having made a disastrous risotto or two myself.)

Tim chose a rabbit and pea ravioli, topped with goats cheese:

The ravioli refused to be photographed nicely, despite Tim and I both attempting it. (I think the yellowness resulted from a street light that flooded in from the alleyway through the window.) Tim enjoyed his choice, but as a duck lover, I have a feeling that he preferred mine; however he was not left duck-less, as I was happy to share the duck.

We rounded out our meal with a very decent coffee.

Gills prices are on the medium side, with most mains costing around the $25-$30 mark. Our meals with drinks and coffee cost around $45 per head.

My Gills Diner experience was very positive - the atmosphere, the staff and the food combined to make it a memorable evening that left a warm afterglow.

Gills Diner
Gills Alley, Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9670 7214


yummychunklet said...

That rabbit and pea ravioli looks delicious! I love ravioli. Too bad I'm on the other side of the world, or I'd try this place!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love the laneway dining in Melbourne! I'll keep this in mind for my December visit :D

Beth said...

Looks delicious. You had me at the Casablanca reference!

Unknown said...

Looks like a great place for a fun night out :) glad you had a good time daaaaahling.
*kisses* HH

The Blonde Duck said...

I'd go for that bread alone--with a HUGE dollop of butter!

Nutmeg Nanny said...

This place looks great! I love love love both of the main choices. Oh and that salted sourdough....yum!

Anonymous said...

This looks like such a neat place to eat. Both of your dinners look delicious!

Jennifer said...

This place sounds spectacular! i always love reading your reviews!