Camden is home to some of London's best kept secrets. From hawkers to sommeliers, pub grub to fine dining; nothing is short of imagination, funk and exclusivity. Upholding this eccentric tradition, Gilgamesh, in The Stables Market is no exception when it comes to eating out.
The exterior alone is enough to inspire a severe case of butterflies in the stomach. Black muslin partitions obscure the entranceway whilst chrome pillars with Olympic-style flames lick at the air around the carved letters that spell ‘Gilgamesh’.
Having pushed aside the drapes, I realised that never before have I had to ride a backlit escalator in order to reach my table.
I settled my derriere down at one of the elevated round tables that had been generously peppered with hand stitched cushions.
In an instant the sommelier was at hand and we ordered a bottle of Pere et Fils, Prestige Brut to drink and some salted edamame beans to share between us as nibbles. Carved from mahogany, the walls are strewn with scenes of ancient Babylonia and further add to a sense of escapism.
A glamorous and glitzy ambience is hard to achieve in any venue that adopts a foreign concept as its core. However, thanks to the higher level of our table I was able to soak up every clink, laugh and smile around me without sacrificing that all important conversation.
The dining area is ridiculously spacious and this is yet another of one of Gilgamesh’s plus points; this is not another cramped London eatery. What’s more, the entire main floor has been separated into two sections, with a bar for those who just fancy a drink and a banquet-styled restaurant for those who want to indulge in an oriental, regal feast.
Aided by the sizeable nature of the room the results are surprisingly beneficial to both sections, the bar is energetic without being rowdy whilst the restaurant is discreet without lacking a buzz.
Above: The Restaurant At Night
Intrigued, we quickly ordered the chicken gyoza dim sum, a duck and watermelon salad, a bowl of crispy squid and a sushi dish oddly entitled Mr. Chang. Having been informed by the general manager that the Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas had sat in the seat ten yards from us last night and that relatives of the Saudi Arabian royal family were eating on the table next to us I hazarded a guess at this peculiar choice of name. Here’s a brief depiction of my conversation with the general manager:
“So why have you called this dish Mr. Chang then? Does it have anything to do with Michael Chang, the tennis player?”
“Sir, it’s called the Mr. Chang because it’s the signature dish of our head chef.”
There was an awkward silence.
The entrees set the culinary bar at a very high level. But between us we came to the eventual conclusion that our favourite entree was the duck and watermelon salad. What impressed us the most about this dish was the ingenious use of basil that served to accentuate the flavours of the ingredients around it, especially the lime and cashew nuts.
Without much ado we ordered our main course with excitement levels on the rise. It didn’t take long for the lamb chops and sea bass to arrive piping hot at our table. The lamb literally fell off the bone and was almost as pleasant to look at as to actually eat.
Marinated in sweet plum miso sauce and presented on a bed of hoba leaf, the roasted sea bass packed more piquancy than a culinary juggernaut. Lightly glazed in miso sauce, the fish dissolved in my mouth, my senses heightened and my central nervous system went into overdrive.
Above: The Bar @ Gilgamesh
This restaurant reminds me of a stylish opium den where affluence and high-quality drink are the only drugs on the menu. The complex of Gilgamesh is vast and spans three colossal floors, with a ballroom overlooking Camden and a private function room that can be converted into a rather swanky bar. The main dining area on the first floor can hold up to 500 people, while the potential capacity of the whole complex can hold a whopping 1,000 bodies.
Gilgamesh isn’t just a pretty face with minimal substance
Top Tip: Try some of the cocktails at the bar. The Ginger Bullet is sure to please those who happen to be fans of bourbon whisky.
Expect to pay around £50 a head (excluding drinks)
Above: The Top Floor Of Gilgamesh Is Reserved For Private Events
Gilgamesh Restaurant Bar & Lounge
The Stables Market
Chalk Farm Road
London, NW1 8AH