Settling into our booth, I surveyed the restaurant and was reminded of Gusto’s ability to return to the authentic Italian dining experience, hitting the mark between chic and familiar with subtle lighting, wooden panelling and plush leather furnishings. Our waiter Darius arrived and guided us through the menu with an expert charm which reflected his familiarity with the dishes he served – a rarity in many similar establishments. Many of the new dishes appeared in the ‘Mains’ and ‘Seafood’ sections of the menu with Chargrilled Lamb Cutlets, Osso Bucco of Veal, Fillet of Pork ‘Milanese’, Fillet of Seabass and Pan Fried Halibut being only a handful of the recent arrivals. As we mused over what to try, nibbles of olives and Gusto dough petals arrived. The petals, a Gusto trademarked special, are particularly recommendable. Smothered in a roast garlicy goodness they are far superior and much prettier than their dough ball cousin (particularly when topped with a liberal portion of the fresh garlic butter).
Sipping at my Cherry and Coconut Sour cocktail, I was still indecisively pondering over the menu when Darius rescued me from my wavering nature and recommended the Pan Fried Halibut with basil butter, smoked garlic and aubergine puree and roast vine tomatoes. The halibut arrived presented daintily with edible flowers and a smearing of puree surrounding the basil butter smothered halibut: the meaty fish was complemented by the herby, buttery and strong flavours of the puree, which pulled together the different components of the dish. I would recommend the polenta fries as a fitting side – crispy but creamy and dangerously moreish.
My company opted for the Fillet of Pork ‘Milanese’. A generous portion arrived and although he noted there was a slight over-abundance of breadcrumbs in places, the meat beneath was tender, creating a hearty dish lightened by the accompaniments of fresh lemon and tender stem broccoli. This dish paired well with the glass of Don David Malbec (Argentina) the tannic element of which brought out the rich taste of the Pork and cut through the heavier elements of the ‘Milanese’. The accompanying sides of garlic mushrooms received rave reviews from my dining partner and these meaty mushroom chunks were admittedly juicy and bathing in a punchy pool of garlic goodness.
Despite a post lunch sleepiness already ensuing from a slightly indulgent feast, greediness got the better of us as the dessert menu was passed round. The homemade tiramisu and sticky toffee pudding which followed were equally delicious, although the sticky toffee pudding just scraped past as my favourite with its ability to be both gooey and rich while retaining a lightness from the fluffy sponge base.
With an extensive menu that reaches out to all tastes and new additions to the menu which are sure to excite, the food at Gusto is the people pleaser of the culinary world, with an array of Italian classics, as well as some more experimental dishes, in its repertoire. However, the service at Gusto is in many ways what separates it from other restaurants: the staff are attentive without being overbearing and there is a real effort to enhance your experience through friendly recommendations and an informed familiarity with the dishes. This sophistication of service is mirrored in the restaurant’s décor and general ambiance, both stylish and refined – making certain there are lots of reasons to sneak down Greek Street for an evening of Gusto indulgence.
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