Gilt Brasserie has finally opened in Auckland’s CBD, in an elegant, light-filled space dotted with cream pillars and anchored with dark wood.

Josh and Helen Emett’s new venture has been one of the city’s most buzzed-about upcoming restaurants, with a confident vision. A 300-strong crowd packed in at this week’s opening party – a good effort for a space that seats 130.

Like Josh’s style of cooking – and that of executive chef Glen File – Gilt melds timeless touches with contemporary execution. It’s designed to be a reliable favourite for all-day dining à la European bistro-style New York institutions such as Balthazar, The Odeon and Pastis.

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Find it on the corner of Chancery and O’Connell streets, in the century-old Chancery Chambers building. A top local contingent worked on the space – including architecture, interior and object design studio Knight Associates, with the build completed by Made By and art curated by Salome Advisory. Leather-topped tables, matte velvet seating and bespoke Simon Ogden carpet crafted by Dilana all add luxurious, tactile touches to the space.

The all-day menu has a classic through line interspersed with clever, fresh flavours and a refreshing number of lighter, vegetable-forward dishes compared to what you’d usually expect from a brasserie. Yes, you can get steak and duck frites, and there’s a whole section dedicated to potato, but File says other hits so far have been Gilt’s take on the Cobb salad and a tomato schnitzel that sees fresh heirloom tomatoes sliced, crumbed and fried, then served with a tomato and butter emulsion and herbs.

“You can mix and match and have balance within the meal. You’ve got rich proteins, but then some vegetables to help cut through that.”

File says Gilt is about highlighting traditional cooking techniques, which he enjoys because it helps the kitchen team grow and learn. Another influence in creating the menu was a recent trip he made to LA, New York and San Francisco. “That really cemented some concepts and values that we wanted to achieve at Gilt. Each dish has a story behind it or was inspired by an event.”

Here, File nominates his five essential Gilt dishes for Broadsheet.

Baked oysters with buttered leeks, beurre noisette and pickles

“In New York, the baked oyster was on every menu,” says File. Even if you usually like yours raw or with just mignonette, give these a go for a quadruple flavour hit. “All the flavours match really well; the freshness from the pickles, the richness from the butter and the leeks underneath to add a depth of flavour. I’m hoping people understand it and really go for it, because I think it’s going to be one of the standout dishes – especially in flavour and technique.”

Sicilian crudo with tuna, salmon, kingfish, salted capers, lemon and olive oil

Gilt’s crudo sings on the plate with a good hit of lemon and bursts of saltiness from the capers. Three different types of fish add variety. “Myself and Jamie [Hogg-Wharekawa, head chef], we’ve both been to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco – and it’s a similar version, [inspired by] a bustling oyster bar. Super clean, super flavoursome, using good products including fish from Leigh, and Ōra King salmon. It’s simple, delicate, fresh and not complicated – easy for people to enjoy.”

Wagyu beef tongue with salsa verde and oregano

Ripples of thinly sliced Lake Ohau Wagyu tongue are brightened with dots of green in this clever take on charcuterie. “I’ve always been a firm believer in ‘nose to tail’, or using all the cuts,” says File. “What we do is brine it like we would corned beef. That’s a five-day process, then we poach it and slice it. It’s almost to be eaten like a charcuterie plate – real simple, with classic salsa verde, olive oil, a bit of oregano and some salt.”

King crab pappardelle ricce with brandy bisque, crème fraîche and Italian parsley

A silky sauce meets al dente, ruffled-edge pasta dotted with flakes of king crab and herbs. It’s a deeply flavourful yet light dish. “This is a simple dish but, behind the scenes, there’s a good amount of technique and flavour to get it across the line,” says File. “Little finishing techniques include a dollop of crème fraîche, a dollop of butter, and we make the stock out of New Zealand scampi heads, cook that out for the day, then reduce it.”

Rum baba with vanilla Chantilly cream and candied orange

You might look at the sponge in this dessert and expect it to be heavy and dense – but it’s incredibly light and airy, smothered in thick, vanilla-spiked cream and rum syrup. It’s a favourite of File’s, who’s been cooking it for 20 years with constant tweaks and refinements. “It’s delicious and punchy. The syrup is made with sugar syrup, citrus and a lot of rum. Every spoonful of sponge should be fifty-fifty with cream. And then you pour the syrup over – or what I recommend is to pour straight rum over it at the end. That’s why there’s so much cream,” he says. “This is a classic dessert that’s simple on the plate but, again, it’s a bit of work to get it there and not something you’d necessarily make at home. We’ve got the time to soak it, so it’s like a sponge that absorbs all of that [syrup] – so when people cut into it, the liquid is all the way through.”

Gilt Brasserie
2 Chancery Street, Chambers, Auckland
09 300 3126

Mon to Sat 11.30am–late

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