MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Gill’s Diner

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Gill’s Diner is another trendy creation from the man behind Journal, Supper Club and The European, Con Christopoulos. This means that the decor is likely to be rustic but innovative. The food is likely to be classic and hearty but with some slight twists, and the coffee is likely to be Romcaffe. Bloody Romcaffe. What Christopoulos’ obsession with Romcaffe is I have no idea. Why a man would put all that effort into this brand when there are plenty of far better local roasters around is very much beyond me, but whatever, I’ll let it slide.

The beauty of Gill’s Diner for me is all in the concept. Tucked away down a laneway off Little Collins Street (I’m sorry readers, it’s just too easy to use the words “tucked away” when talking about laneways and I have no intention of straying form this well-worn cliche for the time being), Gill’s Diner isn’t difficult to find. Just follow the neon “espresso & bread” and say hello to the jolly pig & cock that greet you, rustic indeed. The space itself is beautifully fitted out. The chairs are reminiscent of your old high school scout hall and aren’t super comfortable, but I’ll let comfort suffer a little in the name of design. Whoever does Christopoulos’ interior design is very good at what they do, the concept is executed perfectly, down to the finest deals like old-school speakers used for music (as The Age points out: Gill’s is an MP3 free zone“) and menus on blackboards (only on blackboards).

Best of all, the design creates a concept of space where there actually isn’t much. you can thank the high ceilings and perpendicular roof beams for that. Good show, Gill’s Diner! But onto the food. The entree I sampled, the house salted cod & smoked eel croquettes with “white sauce” and leeks.

Solid opening but nothing that blew me out of the water. The croquettes were delicately put together and fried, the sauce was intriguing and the leeks worked great but holy crap was this dish salty! The name of the game here was most certainly salt, ladies and gentlemen, and I’m sure I came away with more than my RDI of sodium. Luckily I actually like salty things.

For our mains, my dining companion selected the Kingfish Fillet with broad beans and peas (pictured above), whereas I had the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Taleggio (pictured below). I’ll let you in on a little secret, you know those things you see on a menu that you must order immediately upon discovery? Taleggio is one of those things for me. I love cheese and it is my favourite cheese so if I see it, I’m hooked.

And look at that hunk of taleggio! I was delighted when this hit the table, so much so that I didn’t have a great deal of my dining companion’s fish. Apologies, readers! I can tell you from what I tasted that it was decent but, again, nothing amazing. It’s a classic dish on a classic base, kingfish is a wonderful fish and there were no complaints from my dining companion either.

The risotto was splendid but not special. It was prepared in just the way I like my risotto, not too saucy and not too dry, arborio rice cooked to perfection. The mushroom risotto is such an old staple that it’s difficult to go wrong with, and the taleggio really added an extra level of awesomeness (though I think my sodium intake that day was equivalent to an entire recommended week).

I didn’t bother having coffee. I knew it would be Romcaffe and I wasn’t desperate enough on the night.

So the verdict on Gills?

Alex’s Ratings

Taste: 8. I can’t really complain about the execution of any of the dishes but none of them blew me away either.

Value: 4. This is a gripe. In my view, Gill’s doesn’t offer the same experience as other affordable fine dining options in the same rough price range, like Cumulus. If I’m going to pay $30 for a risotto then it better be a damn mind-blowing risotto, the hunk of taleggio notwithstanding (at least they didn’t scrimp), this risotto was good but not spectacular.

Service: 7. Rushed, efficient, impersonal, no complaints but nothing special.

Atmosphere: 10. I love it. I really love the fitout and everything about it. I don’t give 10s often but this one is deserved.

Overall: 7.88. This is a solid addition to Melbourne’s food scene, has proved its merit over the last few years and will be a long-term stayer but I just don’t think it’s up in the echelons of awesome that some other restaurants deliver. Not quite an 8 but more than a 7.5. Oh yeah and fail for coffee.

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4 Responses

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  1. This seems like a place I would love too… im so slack. Been wanting to try it for such a long time….

    penny aka jeroxie

    August 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

  2. A fail for a coffee you didn’t try, but judged upon other venues’ failed efforts.

    Stating you don’t believe their choice of coffee provider is sound, or that you’ve never enjoyed that coffee anywhere else is fair enough, but a “fail” for a coffee untasted? I’m going to go there (never been before) purely to see how they produce caffeine.

    I may probably be disappointed, but I’ve had previously average beans transformed unto unexpected goodness enough times to remain optomistic.

    Aaron

    April 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm

  3. RomCaffe is a big fail!!!! Over rated !! International roast had more personality!!!!

    Alex

    May 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    • i couldn’t agree more. how about utilizing local roasters as opposed to stale beans from overseas – RomCaffe gets a huuuuge thumbs down for me. i will dodge it every time.

      Michelle

      May 26, 2012 at 10:53 am


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