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Melbourne CBD laneways are full of treasures, but none quite like Gill's Diner. Tucked away in an alley off Little Collins Street, Gill's is made up of two parts. First, there is a small cafe serving coffee and snacks, including house-made cakes and breads that are also available for takeaway. The diner itself is further down the alley, hidden behind a big white door. This space was once used for cars and vans, and there are clues as to its earlier industrial history in the tiles, the concrete floors and the high ceilings. Now, however, the walls are painted white, the hand-made timber tables are bare-topped, and the menu is chalked on to blackboards.
This is good European-style food with no fuss; think house-made pasta with seafood, duck breast with lentils and carrots, and corned meat with potatoes, sauerkraut and seeded mustard. There are usually some tempting specials too, such as the line-caught snapper fillets on a bed of vegetable a la grecque (poached with lemon, oil and herbs). You might find the same dish in restaurants with plush carpets, crisp tablecloths and Riedel glasses – I guarantee it will be more expensive, but it won't be better when it comes to taste or quality. The drinks list is very well chosen, yet affordable, and the coffee is great, too. From a quick lunch with colleagues to a romantic dinner by candle light, this place is a true beauty.