James Habla dreamt of opening a community-centred venue for a long time. So when a space became available in Abbotsford’s tight-knit Johnston Street scene, the idea of Gilbees soon followed. Here, Habla brings all he’s learnt in the wholesaling, gastro-science and the food-waste sectors to serve seafood-centric snacks and delicious wines.

The snacky plates are the main event. A big hitter is the octopus carpaccio with lemon dressing and a peppering of mint. It's a perfect run-up to blue swimmer crab spaghettini, which is doused in crunchy breadcrumbs. To drink, there are drops by local labels such as Minimum, BK and Bobar Wines.

Inside, cosy tables, warmed by the fire on colder days, make up the dining room. Like a proud dad of the community, Habla displays works from emerging artists – which are all for sale – throughout the spruced-up 1910s Victorian building.

Out the back, the garden is a spacious oasis for al fresco moments on sunny days, and it was fitted out by Habla and his dad with accessibility in mind. Orange and earthy accents take cues from the bark and sap of the trees near Lake Elizabeth in the Otways. There’s a palpable air of relaxation and ease when you enter, and you’re invited to come solely as you are.

Contact Details

Phone: 1300 445 2337


Updated: May 10th, 2024

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