Busting out the best Basque cheesecake ($19) I’ve tried - after a not inconsiderable amount of lockdown sampling - shows chef Lennox Hastie (Firedoor) knows how to wrap up an excellent dining proposition. Gildas unites the Fink Group’s (Bennelong, Quay and Otto) restaurant expertise and Hastie’s culinary vision in a buzzy Surry Hills corner store. While less formal than Firedoor, Gildas isn’t quite casual, but it does let you rock up unannounced to sip sherry and sup on Basque Country snacks. The namesake gilda ($6/each), with its anchovy, green olive and Basque green pepper, is a given to neatly strip the workday from your palate. Also in the pintxos, juicy pickle-topped skate brandade croquetas ($18/2) (that we accidentally managed to double) when we ordered two serves of excellent orange pimento bread served with a generous smear of smoked butter ($8/2 slices). It’s good for mopping up squid ink, which dominates cuttlefish, fennel and beans ($27) tucked under radicchio leaves. It’ll also work on the rock oyster cream underlying tasty retired dairy cow tartare ($28) - not that we ran out of potato chips.
For the sips, we picked the 2021 Serra i Barceló ‘Aucalá’ Garnatxa Blanca ($99) (a white Grenache) after a chat with the floor team who all boasted wine knowledge. Service ranged from friendly and highly personalised to snooty, with one server presenting an analysis of 12 degree Celsius bottle temperature and a bowl of ice cubes to a lady one table over who told him her rosé was served too warm. By the glass the Corucho Roble Garnacha ($18) light jammy and tea leaf tannins stands up to the standout sausage: txistorra ($29). Think of it as chorizo light, coiled over baby blue lentils with piquillo peppers for contrast. Less smoke and more raw yolk made the oyster mushrooms and buckwheat ($25) a bit of a miss for me. And if you decide (at your peril) to ignore my best of Basque cheesecake opener, the ricotta soft serve ($17) splattered with cherry juice at the table, is almost as delicious.