When Firedoor chef and owner Lennox Hastie started working on his new Surry Hills venue Gildas, the first thing he did was sit down and write a list of all the things that sing “Spain” to him: “Salted fish, cured pork, clams, beans … olives, almonds.”

Hastie, who spent several years working in Spain’s Basque country, and is considered one of the country’s greatest chefs for his flame-harnessing work at Firedoor, started to build an “amazing pantry” of these core ingredients, sourced from Australian growers and producers. “[Gildas is] my love letter to the Basque Country, a ‘Dear diary’ of my recollections and memories, pulling on my food experiences and not encapsulating the actual dish, but the feeling of it,” he tells Broadsheet.

The result is a menu that wouldn’t look out of place in one of northern Spain’s lively pintxos (tapas) bars – but with some very obviously Aussie touches. Day to day, it’s executed by head chef Zach Elliott-Crenn (ex-Maggie Joan’s in Singapore, London’s Portland).

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Ham is prepared Basque-style and rubbed with sherry at Bundarra Berkshires in NSW’s Northern Tablelands. Brandade – an emulsion typically made with the classic Iberian ingredient baccala (salted cod) and potato – is created here using skate. And two very Australian takes on the Gilda – from which the venue takes its name – sit alongside the classic skewered anchovy, olive and pickled guindilla pepper pintxos.

The Grillda involves warm and lightly smoked Port Lincoln sardine fillet with pickled Dutch carrot, finger lime and fennel pollen, while the Matilda is seared red kangaroo, salted desert lime and native pepperberry from palawa country in Tasmania.

Other dishes – including jamon iberico and a zippy plate of razor clams with white beans and romesco sauce – are made using ingredients imported from Spain. A dish of oyster mushrooms with smoked egg yolk is one Hastie says you likely won’t find on other Sydney menus. “Partly because of the people who reside [in Sydney], there’s a great representation of Italian, French and Greek restaurants, but there’s not a lot of restaurants doing Spanish and Portuguese cuisine.”

Gildas is “not 100 per cent a bar, not 100 per cent a restaurant”, he says. It’s designed to be complementary to Firedoor around the corner, offering pre- and post-dinner drinks, while standing on its own as a destination. Thus, the drinks menu, compiled by Firedoor’s head sommelier Benoit Jackman, is given as much weight and attention as the food. You’ll find plenty of dry and savoury sherries. There’s also a strong selection of wines and vermouths from Spain, Portugal and France – and while the grapes may not be familiar, guests are encouraged to tell sommeliers what grapes they like and get an introduction to something new but similar.

The moodily lit venue’s design encourages an array of experiences – prop up at the bar or kitchen counter for a drink, or settle in at a marble-topped table designed for lingering (and eyeing off a striking origami-like illuminated artwork hanging along one of the walls).

“This doesn’t feel like your normal Sydney venue,” says Hastie. “It’s a beautiful space we’ve created. It tells stories.”

46–48 Albion Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8275 8285

Tue to Sat 5pm–midnight