33 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Gimlet is designed to impress. The soaring dining room in Cavendish House has been fully refurbished to its former 1920s glory, and the bar, now polished to a high shine, bustles with staff in ecru blazers whose service sizzes with youthful energy. The experience is all about old-world opulence with modern day sensibilities (thank goodness); they won’t care if you put your elbows on the table or wear jeans to dinner, but they do offer a caviar service, which is wheeled to your table, complete with all the trimmings. Yes, there are probably a couple of more spectacular dining rooms dotted around the city, and a few more spots where the food is more transcendent. But when put into one package, the quality of the entire experience at Gimlet is truly remarkable, and the epitome of special occasion dining.
Rating: 16/20 – diamond of the season.
FYI: be ready to book at least 3 months in advance if you want a prime-time sitting. alternatively, show up on the weekend after 10pm for a go at their supper cheeseburger.
Let’s start with the big guns. The ½ Southern Rock Lobster, Wood Roasted in Saffron Rice ($180) is easily the showstopper dish. And believe it or not, between the enormous, pearly-plump crustacean, and the creamy, slow-cooked rice intoxicatingly infused with brine, it’s worth every cent.
The Gippsland Strip Steak ($58) I find to be less impressive, and more of a crowd-pleaser. The steak is cooked to an ideal medium-rare, and is neither fatty nor lean enough to upset anyone. The accompaniment of an entire chunk of bone with marrow is a bougie touch, and with the wilted bone marrow on the side, is just about enough to make a (keto) meal for one.
A selection of more simple sides is available to accompany the decadence of lobster and T-bone steaks. Admitted, I had hoped the Kipfler Potato, Confit Galic Aioli, and Pecorino ($18) would have more of the hinted-at decadence, though it is still an exemplary vegetable. Wood-Roasted Kale, Sunflower Seed Dressing ($18) provided some much-needed greenery, and the sunflower seed added an unexpectedly clean nuttiness.
But! To start! The Calamarata, Prawn, Celery, Sauce Américaine ($36) is a doozy, the chewy pasta closer in texture to its namesake seafood than carbs, and sticky with a clean yet rich seafood sauce.
Don’t skip out on the Country Sourdough, Cultured Butter ($8), which is everything a good bit of bread should be – crusty edges, and a warm, slightly doughy centre.
For dessert, the Almond Milk and Myer Lemon Gelato, Caramelised Brioche ($23) may seem like the boring choice, but don’t be fooled – it is sensational. The brioche is done up crème brûlée style, with a cap of bitter toffee. The buttery bread transitions into an eggy, custard-soaked base that’s designed to sit in contrast to the pithy greenness of the almond gelato. It’s such a seemingly simple concept, yet I’ve never had anything even remotely like it before.
The Blood Orange and Custard Tart ($23) however is just straight up tart goodness. The ingot of silken custard quivers atop the crunchy biscuit base, whilst the poached blood orange adds a vivid pop of bright bitterness. Only complaint? Give us the other half!
The signature drink at Gimlet is of course, the martini (I’m joking. It’s the gimlet). But even if you’re not imbibing, there is still a lovely selection of booze-free drinks. The Winter Cup ($16) is like a Pimm’s for the cold, the base of oolong providing an earthiness that when combined with the blackberry, produces a remarkably wine-like aroma. My favourite however would be the Marigold Cooler ($14), the delightfully playful tropical flavours mellowed out with just a hint of floral tea.