Presenting ourselves as per our scheduled reservation time did not matter as there wasn't much activity in the restaurant on this night. At first the front of house disregarded the fact that a booking was made as if it was incidental. Given that there were only a handful of guests, I was bemused when they attempted to seat us near the front door and of course be exposed to the cold draft that would inevitably blow in. I quizzed service and asked politely if we could be allocated a table in the rear of the eatery, far away from the door, and they were happy to oblige. After quickly perusing the drinks menu, we ordered one of my favourite ciders, a Henry of Harcourt Duck & Bull ($12.50 for 500ml), produced by the Henry of Harcourt Orchardists and Cidermakers in Harcourt, Victoria. A beautiful cider that gave us the courage to further explore the wine list and examine the blackboard menu behind me with undivided attention.
The house cured gravadlax with chive crème fraîche ($22) was the first starter and we decided to match it with a bottle of 2012 Farr Rising Saignee Pinot Noir Rose ($50) which was the only Rose on the wine list. What impressed me though is that the markup on the wine on offer at this restaurant is quite low and very reasonable. There was a surprising amount of salmon, a big dollop of crème fraîche and when mixed together it made for a great starter. The wine from Geelong was pink, smelled sweet and matched well. I was very impressed with the way things were starting off.
Farmhouse terrine with chutney and cornichons ($19) was next delivered from the kitchen. A very rustic and large slice of loaf that was not only visually stunning but really worked well across the palate with the Rose. Like with the gravadlax, I was impressed by the portion sizes but disappointed at the same time as I like to order multiple dishes of food to experience more tastes and although what I had consumed at this point was great, I was frustrated because the volume of food would limit my tasting goals.
This is about the time things became a bit queer. The spaghetti marinara with seafood and chilli ($33) was ordered along with a bottle of 2008 Hanging Rock "Three Dudes" Pinot Noir from Kilmore, VIC. I had previously sampled this wine at one of the Federation Square wine tasting nights and was just impressed with this wine from the relatively unexplored Macedon region of our great state. When delivered, the marinara itself was prepared from a recipe that did not include tomatoes. Although this happens at times, I was a bit surprised. Regardless when I tasted the pasta itself it was very undercooked. There was no way that the pasta would finish cooking in the sauce, so I sent it back. This was the first time since writing this blog I have sent something back so it was indeed a first and it certainly was not for dramatic effect. Service kindly did not charge me for this dish and instead of getting a replacement, I ordered a selection of the sorbets and ice creams ($12) which was a pleasant enough way to end this meal along with the fruity wine.
Service was hospitable and consultative. Given there are limited menu items, all highlighted on a blackboard where the focus is to promote and best utilise local produce, and what I found, wine, I appreciated the attention. How service dealt with my undercooked pasta was proactive and professional. Sometimes it is interesting to see how restaurants deal with small issues and I was pleased that the professionalism of this place was highlighted through this minor indiscretion. I would happily return to Gill's Diner again and am most intrigued about their bread which they sell as an aside and also the bar that has quite an intriguing cocktail list.
Gills Diner was awarded one hat in the 2012/2013 The Age Good Food Guide.
360 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9670 7214
(03) 9670 7214
My Rating: 14.25/20
Value For Money: 4/5
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com