Find pitted or stuffed green olives (preferably Spanish). Next, open a can of white anchovies and a jar of pickled guindilla peppers. Take one of each of these ingredients – maybe two peppers and a pickle if there are any – then stick them on a toothpick, threading the anchovy all the way through. Season with extra virgin olive oil.
Now you have a Gilda – a classic pintxo from the Basque Country, and the namesake of Lennox Hastie’s new San Sebastián-inspired wine bar.
Before coming to Australia to open one of Sydney’s top restaurants and star in an episode of Chef’s Table – you know, the usual story – Hastie lived and worked in the Basque Country of northern Spain for five years . Departure from San Sebastian (Donostia).
“There was a bit of activity around what the chefs were doing in San Sebastian,” says Hastie. “Before the release of the Michelin guide in Tokyo, there were more Michelin stars per square meter in San Sebastian than anywhere else in the world.”
“And it was like – what’s this little beach town doing that nobody else does, you know? Why all the fuss?
So Hastie stayed to find out.
“It was a big change in my career, moving away from [fine dining]”, says Hastie. “It was a turning point because I was trying to find something – you feel like you’ve finally reached the top of your game and that’s not what you wanted, after many many years of training. I was like, what do I do next?
Eventually he started working at a pintxo bar called Astelena. And the lessons he learned there were crucial to the evolution of his cuisine.
“I loved that creative freedom, of mixing ingredients together to make little bites,” he says. “For me, there’s always this window of opportunity with ingredients where they’re absolutely perfectly at their peak…and this ability to be able to just mix them together and produce something in one small bite, which has a lot of power.”
“I’m very passionate about this style of food.”
Gildas will be an ode to this approach to eating and drinking. It’s in a space across from Firedoor that seats about 60 people with indoor and outdoor seating. The menu is still being developed and will change often, but will follow the Basque format of small bites and sharing plates – “and obviously we’re going to have an epic Gilda on the menu”.
The bar will have its own kitchen and staff – it’s more than just an enclosure for pre- or post-booking drinks at the Firedoor. Reservations will be available, but there will always be room for walk-ins. Hastie hopes it will become a destination in its own right and is careful to point out the bona fides of Gildas’ bar.
“Food and drink will be on equal footing,” he says. “With restaurants, you usually think of the menu and the wine pairing with the dishes – with Gildas, we think, ‘what do we like to drink? That’s a different approach.”
But Hastie isn’t just inspired by the food and drink of San Sebastian’s bars, he also hopes to recreate their atmospheres.
“There’s a certain energy to these bars. Where you have a really good vibe, a good mix of people, where you can drop by and have a quick sherry or a glass of wine, or meet someone there and stay longer and have a few more bites – you’re sort of deciding how you want your evening to go: whether you go somewhere else or settle in for the evening.”
“No obligation, just lots of choice.”
Gildas should open in early July. The waiting list for reservations is now open.