Gills Alley (rear 360 Little Collins Street), Melbourne (map)
The lunch I had a week ago at Gill's Diner represented a first for me - the first time a Melbourne Gastronome reader had requested that I review a particular venue. Andrew, I was only too happy to oblige - and thank you so much for recommending Gill's Diner, I was wowed by the lunch I had!
When Andrew suggested it the name Gill's Diner rang distant bells in my head, but it was only once I'd done a quick check on mcity that I realised I had eaten there before - albeit when the space was still just the Commercial Bakery backroom and the menu was limited to bakery/cafe fare.
As you can see, now it has become a bustling restaurant! The food has an Italian/Bistro focus, and the rather exxy-for-lunch prices mean I'll need to find a sugar daddy if I wish to make this a regular haunt of mine. As it is, I dined with M and C and paid my own way, thanks very much... :)
M had the risotto of carrot and prawns with slow cooked leek ($22). As you can see, the carrot was entirely blended within the risotto. We all thought carrot and prawn sounded like a slightly odd combination, but it worked well. I wished the rice had had a touch more bite to it, though.
I'll admit that I felt a teensy stab of Dish Envy when C's plate of dukkah spiced whole quail with sumac, tomato fondue and mint salad ($23) arrived before him. The dukkahed crispy quail meat with minty tomato tasted as good as it looked. Next time at Gill's, I'll find it hard to go past this one if it's still up on the blackboard.
But when my dish arrived, any flicker of Dish Envy I'd had was extinguished. This, my friends, is the conchiglioni filled with Moreton Bay bugs, squash and lemon zest ($24.50). It was easily the best pasta dish I've had in a restaurant in months, and the memory of it will linger for quite a while.
The conchiglioni (Italian for big seashells - it may look like a small dish, but these suckers were huge) had been boiled, then roasted, THEN lightly pan fried. See the crispy underside of the foremost conchiglione? The taste and texture of the shells was incredible. The thrice-cooked pasta was filled with a delicious creamy puree of the ingredients listed above, with finely chopped tomato and green olive sprinkled over the top with a drizzle of good olive oil. Mmmmmmmmm.
On my way out, I stopped at the Commercial Bakery counter to pick up some chocolate custard tartlets and mixed nut tartlets, as I was going to a dinner party that night after work and wanted to bring something along. The fellas in the office kept trying to snaffle them all afternoon, but they made it intact to North Melbourne that night and were a great success.
Thanks once again for the recommendation and request, Andrew!