It's a quirky name but there again Gimbals is something of a quirky restaurant and certainly one you’ll remember.
Walk in there and it’s like stepping back in time to an age of calmness tinged with Victorian elegance.
A couple of weeks ago we were in Jannat’s Punjabi restaurant right next to Huddersfield bus station and I’d never seen a curry so red nor one so green.
At Gimbals I’ve never seen walls painted such a dark green (downstairs) and such a deep burgundy (upstairs). And I’ve certainly never seen a sink that’s a huge shell. No kidding, it really is, although I’m not so sure you can hear the sound of the sea in it.
The upstairs is where you can sip your coffee in quiet contemplation or opt for what the restaurant calls ‘light bites’ that range from grilled Merguez sausages, spiced cous cous, smoked baby aubergines and pomegranate molasses to tomato and pimento chicken breast on a salami, spinach, borlotti bean and rosemary salad.
And indulge while gradually sinking deeper and deeper into familiar old sofas and easy chairs that feel like they’ve been transported from the front of a stately home’s roaring open fire.
Downstairs is the restaurant complete with sturdy wood tables, bare wooden floors and walls that add to the surreal nature of the ambience bordering on the odd. Don’t be perturbed to turn round and come face to face with stuffed fish in glass display cases staring back at you, a sculptured owl and a case full of brightly-coloured large beetles. Don’t worry, it’s all about art.
And in the front window the glow of lights draped around a stone statue beckons the diners in. As you walk in through the dimly lit corridor you’ll come face-to-face with tealights flickering on the stairs, casting dancing shadows on the dark walls.
And then you wonder if you’re in the right place for a seance rather than a restaurant.
Some restaurants are way too bright. At Gimbals the lighting’s very much toned down to let the candles shed soft light on the serene aura. It’s warm and cosy in there – not a place where you want to rush things.
And you don’t. The weekday set menu offers two courses for £16.90 or why not push the pudding boat out and go for all three for £19.90. It’s rustic and a little wild in the natural sense of the world, not the wacky.
First off dip the homemade bread into olive oil and balsamic vinegar, surely one of the simplest pleasures of culinary life.
The menu – which changes every five weeks – is not extensive. In fact, it’s really rather short offering just three starters, three mains and three desserts. The restaurant goes for quality ingredients and usually gets everything organic and locally-sourced wherever possible.
We began with smoked mackerel with roasted linguini, meli melo tomatoes, basil and a hint of chilli. A light starter with the natural sweetness of the tomatoes toning down the mackerel’s natural strength. You could smell the sea in this dish from the moment it’s placed in front of you.
Our other starter was Portobello mushroom eggs Benedict – a toasted muffin topped with mushroom, poached egg, wilted spinach and a generous pool of hollandaise sauce. There’s something about mushroom and egg that whets the appetite – well almost drowns it – as it fires the tastebuds into life. And this was Benedict at its wholesome best.
First mains was Tandoori hake with lentil dhal and white onion bhaji. The fish was snow-white and flaked off with the fork – a delicate texture to go with its delicate flavour – while the lentil dhal racked the spice stakes up a touch. It’s quite a dry dish though.
Our other was garlic chicken breast with buttery crushed sweet potato and garlic pesto. And why not? – having been for a drive on the North Yorkshire moors at the weekend and coming face-to-face with wild garlic growing all over the place. The chicken was succulent and certainly not overpowered by the garlic which just gave it the taste-filled embellishment it needed.
The side dish was sauteed spring vegetables with potatoes, smoked garlic and basil butter. They certainly had the crunch factor from the baby carrots through to the broccoli – just how vegetables should be – while the basil butter did enough to lift them out of the ordinary.
Desserts to make the shortlist were sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and double cream; chocolate fondant with rhubarb and white chocolate ice-cream and lemon brûlée with shortbreads.
As greed’s an alien word to us we shared the lemon brûlée with its naturally sharp zing having the refreshing power of a cold shower on an Arctic iceflow.