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Lifting the Curse

The new restaurant from Josh and Helen Emett is white-collar Auckland’s newest old friend.

Lifting the Curse

Mar 11, 2024 Restaurants

From time to time, you meet a person at a party — a friend of a friend — and wordlessly, intuitively, you just know they’re Your Kind of People. They like the same things you like, but have enough diverging interests and hobbies that they’re interesting to talk to. They’re well travelled, and it turns out they frequented many of the same haunts as you during the time you were both living overseas but didn’t know each other. Their taste is impeccable; their manners the right side of sass. Very quickly, you become old friends, and it becomes hard to remember where you met them, and how long you’ve really known each other. This is how I feel about Gilt Brasserie. 

As I write this, Gilt has been open for about six weeks. The first week, the dining room felt like a who’s who of the hospitality world — there to pay their respects, and to revel in the warmth and, let’s face it, relief of a new opening (of which there have been quite a number in the past few months — a welcome uptick after a long, wet winter). But before the week was out, Gilt was claimed by its rightful owners: the Shortland St crowd. And I don’t mean the TV show. The last two times I ate at Gilt, I ate with lawyers. The place was packed to the rafters with professional types, grinning and chatting, having respectable-but-rowdy ‘Another glass of wine, please’ lunches. There was a lot of waving across the dining room and popping over to other tables to kiss friends on the cheek. A quick lap of high fives might have been more efficient for some.

This is the crowd that still very vocally mourns the loss of the O’Connell Street Bistro (may it rest in peace) and will be very happy to add another staple into the rotation. You can only have lunch at Hugo’s Bistro so many times a week. The enthusiasm of this demographic is both fitting and inevitable, given Gilt’s location on the ground floor of the old Chancery Chambers building. The fit-out is incredibly attractive — bright but warm, open but cosy. There are plush banquettes, marble-topped tables and lots of dark wood panelling. It reminds me, in a very welcome way, of The Delaunay in London, and that is no small compliment. The team at Gilt know their market well, with chic, minimalist cocktails (Martini Mondays — just putting that out there) and a very solid, globe-trotting wine list (finally!) with many excellent options by the glass. 

The food at Gilt is uncontroversial. By that I mean there is nothing to offend anyone, but probably also nothing that is going to set the world on fire. Just good, largely classic dishes executed very well. The produce is top notch — at the moment, featuring juicy asparagus and tomatoes, each in a couple of places on the menu. The sauces are understated but still flavourful. The triple-cheese soufflé entrée is a comforting crowd-pleaser, with all the light-but-dense-but-still-not-heavy alchemy one hopes for in a cheese pudding. And the grilled tiger prawns with ’nduja are simple but balanced — a balance that eludes many restaurants cooking with the spicy, salty, spreadable sausage. Gilt gets it right. 

The king crab pappardelle ricce is my favourite dish on the menu: deploying an under-used pasta shape, slicked in a flavourful dark bisque, dotted with plenty of crab meat. The lamb cutlets could have used something a bit saltier or sharper in the mix, though with three thick, juicy breaded cutlets, they made for a very satisfying lunch and I would order them again. But I think the talking point here should be the ‘quick lunch’ option — a 120g minute steak with a healthy pile of frites and a gravy boat full of gloriously green, herby, entrecôte sauce. A thin steak, sure, but as advertised, and cooked expertly so it’s still juicy. It is possible to walk into this beautiful dining room, in a premium spot in the middle of town, and have a good steak for $26. Add a glass of primitivo and you squeak in at $40 for a great lunch. It would be a tragedy to let a tree like that fall in the forest without making sure we all heard it. (I recently paid $48 at another new opening for steak frites — without wine — and it was not nearly as good.)

Gilt’s is an undeniably slick operation, but not snooty, and I would expect nothing less from long-time restaurateurs Josh and Helen Emett. They run a tight ship. I’ve heard it said that the spot on the ground floor of Chancery Chambers is cursed; so many restaurants have come and gone in the space. From what I’ve seen so far, I have every faith that a little gold from Gilt will rub off on the building and dispel the heebie-jeebies for good.


Gilt Brasserie ***
2 Chancery St, Central City

Mon–Sat, 11.30am–10pm

Dinner Bill
Starters $16–$38
Mains $26–$72
Sides $12–$24
Desserts $8–$20

This review was published in Metro N°441.
Available here.


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Metro N°442 is Out Now.

In the Autumn 2024 issue of Metro we celebrate the best of Tāmaki Makaurau — 100 great things about life in Auckland, including our favourite florist, furniture store, cocktail, basketball court, tree, make-out spot, influencer, and psychic. The issue also includes the Metro Wine Awards, the battle over music technology company Serato, the end of The Pantograph Punch, the Billy Apple archives, a visit to Armenia, viral indie musician Lontalius, the state of fine dining, and the time we bombed West Auckland to kill a moth. Plus restaurants, movies, politics, astrology, and more.

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