Since it opened late last year, Gibibaba on Smith St has become one of the most desired places in Melbourne at which to dine. Reviews from Gosstronomy, Everything goes with cream, Hieronymous the anonymous, Melbourne gastronome, 1001 dinners 1001 nights and Hookturns are all fundamentally positive. I loved it the first time I went and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to visit again.

gb0910 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

On my first visit they were yet to offer Turkish coffee due to a lack of the right stove on which to brew it; that has been corrected now, and the Turkish coffee is excellent. The service has improved too.

Gigibaba’s popularity, no bookings policy and modest size means it has became one of the most difficult restaurants to get into. The only solution is to get there early, preferably in both the evening and the week. That’s the local’s secret exposed; you’ll all do it now and I’ll never get in again.

This strategy worked perfectly on a recent Tuesday evening when I arrived at 6.30pm and scored the prized front table in the window for my group of four, including an old friend who I have not seen much of lately, and her husband who I have not met before, both of whom were looking forward to their first visit. The timing was necessary to ensure we could get in. Here’s what we ate.

Ezme – tomato and capsicum salad.

gb091 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

Smoked eggplant salad – the most delicious smoky eggplant ever. I could eat buckets full of this!

gb092 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

Sultan’s delight, which is lamb in a rich sauce. The meat was extremely tender.

gb095 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

Sardine fritters – one of the games played at Gigibaba is using names for food that are not what you would normally use – in this case fritters instead of balls.

gb093 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

The blue eye with potatoes and beetroot. A beautiful balance of subtle flavours.

gb096 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

The prawn iskender remains the best dish on the menu. We refused to allow the waitress to take away the empty plate until we had savoured all the leftover oil with our bread. My only criticism of Gigibaba is my frustration at the miserly serves of bread that come with the dips and ‘salads’ that are like dips. One piece of bread per person per serve is silly to start with, particularly when we have ordered dishes to be eaten with bread. Diners should not have to keep asking for more. Staff should notice and ask us if we would like more and then deliver it like they refill glasses of water.

gb094 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

There’s no dessert menu, and we were offered a selection of what was being made that night. Like the savoury food, the serves are tiny but $8 per person is a reasonable price to pay to sample three different desserts. The chocolate truffles have prune inside and are extremely rich and delicious.

gb099 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St


gb097 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

Turkish chocolate creme brulee – also rather delicious.

gb098 dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

I started with a glass of Crittenden alboriño and we later got a bottle of the fabulous Jamsheed ‘Pepe’ pinot noir. The wine list is fantastic and well suited to the food.

Gigibaba is not a place for the famished. The dishes are small, so you’ll graze modestly and want to linger over every mouthful because the flavours are so delicious, and there are relatively few mouthfuls per meal compared to most other restaurants. Most people will begin to fret about the possible size of the bill before they come close to leaving food uneaten on the plate. As an occasional treat though it’s hard to beat.

dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

14 thoughts on “dinner at Gigibaba on Smith St

  • 4 May 2009 at 12:22 am

    Mmm! Was there many months ago. Reading your review just reminded me why I must go back. Amazing taste explosion with each and every bite! Can’t wait to return…

  • 4 May 2009 at 9:15 am

    I tried it on Saturday night at 6:45pm – there was a two hour wait.

    Man, I don’t want it that bad.

  • 13 July 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I love this place! The secret to being heartily fed at Gigibaba is to order the banquet ($55 per head). You will leave feeling so full you won’t need to eat breakfast the next day! You get dips, starters, a multitude of the meat and fish dishes, some salad, then the dessert selection and Turkish coffee. Their wine list is amazing, can’t fault the atmosphere and staff have been friendly (and bread attentive) on all three of my visits. As for the “two hour” wait – they tell you up front how long they’ll be, so you can make the call then and there on whether you want to wait. They also take your name and mobile number and call you when the table’s ready – so you don’t need to keep checking in. On the night we couldn’t get a table straight away, my friends and I went to the revamped Grace Darling (a few doors down) had a wine and then got the call to go back an hour later (as promised). Easy!

    • 13 July 2009 at 6:13 pm

      The banquet is excellent value but not so good when dining with vegetarian friends as it is mostly meat…

  • 14 July 2009 at 9:14 am

    Down with vegetarian friends! :op

  • 15 July 2009 at 10:29 am

    Down with friends who are allergic to seafood too! Mine always wants to eat Tapas and we have also been to Gigibaba together. Actually, it works slightly in my favour as I get to eat all the seafood and some of what he orders. Still I wanna share everything!

    • 15 July 2009 at 10:50 am

      Hmmm what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is also partially mine? I’m going to be careful next time we eat out!

  • 17 July 2009 at 2:34 pm

    It will be good for you to have your what’s mine is mine schtick subverted.

    • 17 July 2009 at 2:42 pm

      I believe it is your ‘what’s yours is mine’ worldview we are discussing :-)

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  • 3 December 2009 at 9:57 am

    it is great during the week but on meze night is not so good


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