Find some pitted or stuffed green olives (preferably Spanish ones). Then, open a tin of white anchovies and a jar of pickled guindilla peppers. Take one of each of these ingredients – maybe two peppers, and a cornichon if it’s around – then stick them onto a toothpick, threading the anchovy along the length of it. Dress with extra virgin olive oil.
You now have a Gilda – a classic Basque Country pintxo, and the namesake for Lennox Hastie’s new San Sebastián-inspired wine bar.
Before he came to Australia to open one of the best restaurants in Sydney and star in an episode of Chef’s Table – you know, the usual story – Hastie lived and worked in northern Spain’s Basque Country for five years. Starting in San Sebastián (Donostia).
“There was a bit of activity around what chefs were doing in San Sebastián,” says Hastie. “Before the Michelin guide came out in Tokyo, there were more Michelin stars per square metre in San Sebastián than anywhere else in the world.”
“And it was like – what the hell is this small seaside town doing that no-one else is, you know? What’s all the fuss about?
So Hastie stuck around to find out.
“That was a big change in my career, going away from [fine dining],” Hastie says. “It was a seminal point because I was trying to find something – you feel like you finally get to the top of your game and it’s not what you wanted, after many years of training. I was like, what do I do next?
Eventually, he started working at a pintxos bar called Astelena. And the lessons he learned there were crucial to the evolution of his cooking.
“I just loved that freedom of creativity, of throwing together ingredients to make small bites,” he says. “For me, there’s always this window of opportunity with ingredients where they’re absolutely perfectly at their peak … and that ability to be able to throw them together simply and produce something in a small bite, that has a lot of power.”
“I’m very passionate about that style of food.”
“The food and drink will be on an equal standing,” he says. “With restaurants you’re typically thinking about the menu and pairing wine to dishes – with Gildas we’re thinking, ‘what do we like to drink? What food or nibble will go really well with this sherry or this amazing wine?’ It’s a different approach.”
But Hastie isn’t just taking inspiration from the food and drink at San Sebastián’s bars, he’s also hoping to recreate their atmospheres.
“There’s a certain energy to those bars. Where you’ve got a real great vibe, a great mix of people, where you can drop in and have a quick sherry or a glass of wine, or meet someone there and stay longer and have a few more bites – you’re kind of deciding how you want your night to go: whether you’re going to another place, or whether you’re settling in for the evening.”
“No obligations, just lots of choices.”
Gildas opens Tuesday 6 September at 5pm.
Looking for some delicious recipes by Lennox Hastie? Click the links below