Restaurant Review: Gilgamesh, NW1
�Worlds away from the laid-back, shabby charm of its Camden Town surroundings, Gilgamesh is all about opulence, extravagance and in-your-face glamour.
Crafted by a 10,000-strong Indian design team, no expense was spared in kitting out this former warehouse – also home to a separate cocktail bar and nightclub – which opened in 2006.
The experience begins from the second your feet leave the cobbles of Stables Market and step through the roaring flaming lamps into the cave-like entrance.
Juxtaposed with the ancient Babylon-style of the interior, an escalator transports you through a tunnel of intricately carved wood depicting the story of the restaurant’s Sumerian king namesake – the base of the design theme apparent throughout the venue.
Inside the pan-Asian restaurant, operated by critically acclaimed head chef Ian Pengelley, you’ll find a bizarre fusion of statues standing tall over the diners perched at dark wood tables hand painted with flowers, velvety red seats, gold panels, palm trees and fairy lights.
Panoramic windows give the feeling of openness and there’s a 40ft high ceiling with a fully retractable roof.
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Yes, it’s over the top – and some have accused it of being garish – but, for me, this bold piece of visionary design worked.
It’s a vast place – seating some 200 guests – and, as we sipped our crisp Pinot Grigio on our Saturday night visit, we noted how buzzing it was.
Our elevated round table at the side of the restaurant was surrounded by a comfy circular seat and provided plenty of space. However, diners looked a little squeezed in the middle of the restaurant and didn’t look quite so relaxed or comfy.
With a place so big and with such a focus on design, I was concerned that the food was going to be mass produced and the service impersonal – but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Our waitress was so attentive – to the point she was refilling our jug of water before it was even near to running dry – and spent time helping us wade through the large menu. She helpfully recommended we choose two starters each to share and then two main coures.
Our first course was therefore an epic array of beautifully presented sushi, dim sum and other Asian favourites – providing a kaleidoscope of culinary treats.The tender meat of the black bean ribs fell off the bone, the fried squid were delicate and the crispy smoked chicken bursting with satisfying flavours.
Our sushi choices – a salmon inside-out roll and a spicy spider roll consisting of crab and avocado – were fresh and delicious.
But what stole the show was the prawn tempura – the shellfish were of giant portions and cooked in a fluffy and crisp – but not at all greasy – batter.
For mains, we ordered a hoba miso Chilean seabass and a Thai chicken curry with coconut rice and udon noodles to share.
The fish was served filleted with the flavour of the sticky coating an intriguing fusion of sweet plum and spices and the flesh underneath bright white, firm and meaty.
The chicken in the Thai curry was succulent and the sauce had a nice warm kick, without being too spicy.
Onto dessert, and the high standards continued. The chocolate fondant was, with no exaggeration, the best I have ever had. The sponge was warm, soft and moist and gave way to mouth-watering melted chocolate, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The evening was rounded off nicely with a few cocktails.
It’s not cheap, but the food more than matched up to expectations and it’s an overall experience that I’d happily repeat.