Food review: The Gables, Newgate Street Village
PUBLISHED: 12:23 19 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:29 19 May 2015
A chef's enthusiasm for his craft inspires food and drink editor Richard Cawthorne to check out a village restaurant
Head chef Gelu Nistor of the Gables in Newgate Street Village wasn’t pulling any punches when he answered the Hertfordshire Life Chef Q&A in last month’s issue. His enthusiasm for his craft was evident, and before you say so it should be it was different enough to tempt me to head out to try it for myself, given his talk of the importance in his cooking of roasted aromatic herbs and good quality olive oil.
The Gables is a striking Nordic-looking building (it takes its name from the shape of its roof) on a corner opposite the Crown pub. When we visited it was immaculately presented, with shiny wood floors, polished silverware and glasses and proper tablecloths. Walls were decked with pictures and photographs, the whole thing set off by the controlling presence of manager Alvaro Vaz, who seemed delighted when I spoke to him later that I understood how to pronounce his name, as well as being pleased that I liked his restaurant.
Suitably impressed by the surroundings and the welcome, we approached a menu that we feared might be on the over-exotic side, though we needn’t have worried. Chef Nistor describes his style as classic Italian with modern European influences, which gives him a pretty wide scope, but his food is of the straightforward kind, enlivened by some smart twirly bits of the sort we have come to expect of our new breed of Hertfordshire commuter-belt eateries.
Nine starters ranged from home-made taramasalata, houmous and tsatsiki dips served with hot pitta bread (£3.95) to a crab salad of fresh white crabmeat and baby prawns with rocket leaves and garlic aioli (£9.50). Two pasta dishes, penne arrabiata and penne Bolognese, were offered as starters or mains (from £5.95 to £11.95) and three others featuring chicken, crab or seafood as mains only (£12.95-£16.95). Five fish or seafood mains, all averaging about £18, were backed up by six of meat, including the Gables Meat Platter at £24.95, an heroic helping of rib-eye steak, lamb cutlets, char-grilled chicken and spicy sausage served with home-made chips. Vegetables are offered as side orders costing between £3.50 and £4.95, which I always think is a bit cheeky given the prices of the mains, but not everybody agrees with me.
As it happened, the stars of the evening were found among the specials and my adventurous companion had the benefit. Soup of the day was a lobster bisque (£5.95), in which everything – consistency, colour and flavour, not to mention the chunks of lobster – was declared just right. I sneaked a taste for myself and she was right. Thus triumphant, she followed up with roasted scallops – no surprise there - and prawns on a saffron risotto (£22.95), which kept the satisfied smile on her face in place for the rest of the evening.
Back on the abovementioned straightforward side, I plundered the standard menu, beginning with a very acceptable serving of warm goat’s cheese on a bed of roasted vegetables with a reduction of red pepper sauce (£6.95). Artistically plated like all the dishes, it was good without being wildly exciting. The same went for my fresh monkfish on a bed of grilled courgettes and mixed peppers, topped with cherry tomatoes and truffle oil (£18.95), a near-cousin to what chef Nistor says is his favourite dish and well worth the try, tasty but uninspiring in this version.
A varied and informative wine list backs up the food with the Gavi Di Gavi Conte Alari (£24.95) recommended particularly for fish dishes, though like several other bottles on the list it veered toward the over-priced. Desserts, which we did not try, are in the high-calorie range, with banoffee pie (£5.95) and chocolate cheesecake (£6.95) among the stars.
Quibbles aside, our evening was an enjoyable experience. Guests are treated with care and the food is reliable. Gelu Nistor’s belief in what he is doing is clearly not misplaced and well supported in the front-of-house department. BOOK A TABLE
14-16 Newgate Street Village, SG13 8RA