At Gildas, the new Surry Hills wine bar that’s a sister venue to flame-driven diner Firedoor, the dishes are inspired by the bounty and flavours of Spain’s Basque region. Executive chef and co-owner Lennox Hastie draws from his experience working in Basque country to plate dishes such as Roman beans with razor clams and preserved lemon, grilled squid with ajo nero and fennel, and alubias (white beans) in a jamon broth with pippies and a slosh of manzanilla.

Working alongside him is Australian-born head chef Zach Elliott-Crenn, former executive chef at European diner Maggie Joan’s in Singapore and head chef of Michelin-starred London restaurant Portland.

Broadsheet took five with Elliott-Crenn to chat quality produce, the playful desserts he’ll be putting on the menu, and why he’s excited to dive into Basque cuisine.

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What's your new job title?
I am the head chef at Gildas. I’ll be leading the team in the kitchen and working alongside Lennox Hastie to develop a menu focused on outstanding produce and playful twists on Basque cuisine.

Why did you want to join the Gildas team?
I have always been interested in working with small-scale producers who are passionate about their products and care deeply about the quality of the ingredients they deliver; Lennox’s focus on high-quality produce and ingredients instantly appealed to me.

I’ve also developed a strong interest in wine over the course of my career, and was attracted to working in close collaboration with the front-of-house team on pairing our dishes with exciting wines from all over Australia, the Basque region and beyond.

Finally, I was excited about taking a deep dive into Basque cuisine, with its incredibly rich history and strong focus on conviviality, fresh ingredients and fire-driven flavours.

Do you have any fun plans or ideas for Gildas?
From a kitchen perspective, I’m hoping to put in place measures to reduce waste and improve the restaurant’s environmental footprint, whether through the reduction of plastic use and chemicals where possible, or the use of sustainably sourced ingredients.

Will you bring along any dishes or ideas you’re known for?

I like to use vegetables in ways that people aren’t necessarily used to, and will continue to do this at Gildas. Using high-quality produce allows you to showcase vegetables in new and interesting ways, all while delivering incredible flavour, and Basque cuisine, with its focus on fresh, seasonal produce, lends itself particularly well to that.

I will also be using my background in pastry to explore Basque desserts that we don't often come across in Australia, and I look forward to experimenting with local ingredients for an Australian take on these classics.

Will we see any cool ideas or dishes that you reckon will thrill diners?
I’m thinking of creating a playful version of the Carolina di Bilbao, a classic Basque dessert, using our delicious soft-serve ice-cream in lieu of meringue, plus a boozy sherry custard and Messina chocolate.