Celebrated chef and restauranteur Andrew McConnell embraces his Mad Men moment with Gimlet, the latest addition to his Melbourne restaurant empire.
Where do you go once you’ve cemented a reputation as one of your city’s culinary moguls with a fine diner, two wine bars, a fancy pub, a pan-Asian powerhouse, two delis, three boutique butcheries and the greatest all-day eatery Australia has ever known? If you’re Andrew McConnell, you do the unexpected: you look backwards.
“To me, Gimlet is that big-city restaurant every important food city in the world has,” says McConnell. “It’s classic but contemporary, not really defined by any particular part of the world but it has its place here.”
Not to say that Gimlet is retro. Far from it. But in taking over the coveted Cavendish House, a heritage building on the corner of Flinders Lane and Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD, McConnell elected to follow the classical cues suggested by its Deco bones. While Mad Men’s Don Draper might look slightly out of place ordering a katsu sando at Supernormal or sliding into Cumulus Inc. for heirloom zucchini with whipped fetta, the large bar at the heart of Gimlet is just the place to shoot your cuffs before downing a Highball, while the corner booths on the mezzanine are as suited to three-Martini deal-making as they are to flinging woo. Timeless, yes; old-fashioned, no.
The food likewise leans more classical than at McConnell’s other venues. Here the structure is the tried-and-true entréemain- dessert standard, ideally with a drink at the bar either side. Oysters, steak and ice-cream? Done, done and done, though this being McConnell, the oysters come with rye bread and seaweed butter and the ice-cream is rich gelato, churned fresh for each service. Or push the boat out a bit with caviar in place of the oysters, and step the steak up to a kilo of dry-aged rib-eye cooked over coals and presented with a battery of condiments. Stick with the gelato, though – just get it with the wood-roasted apricots and almond cake.