Over the last year Glasgow has seen a huge number of new restaurants open although the majority of them seem to be another take on the noble burger. Whilst it's great that the food industry see Glasgow as a city for growth, I've always felt that Glasgow has a shortage of classier establishments that can serve up great food combined and fantastic service in luxurious surroundings. With that in mind, I was delighted to be invited along to try out the newly opened branch of Gusto, a higher end Italian restaurant which is part of the Living Ventures group.
Yes it's a chain, but each branch does its best to carve out its own style and identity, plus myself and Nicola have enjoyed some great meals in their Edinburgh branch.
The Bothwell Street restaurant occupies the grade A listed building that once housed an old branch of Clydsdale Bank but after a £1.4 Million refurbishment the interior now has an Art Deco feel that befits the original building.
When you walk in from Bothwell Street you are immediatly transported to a time long forgotten. A large square bar area dominates the main interior space whilst rich dark wood and stained glass partitions add a touch of luxury.
We were shown to our table with minimal fuss and left to look over the a la carte menu, if there were any specials on that evening we weren't informed by our waitress, although there is plenty on the number that we liked the sound of so having anything in the mix could have made our dinner choice even more complicated.
The wine list is huge with plenty of choice although I think the prices being charged for wines by the glass was very expensive. I hoped to see a few Italian lager options and both Peroni Nastro Azzuro and Birra Moretti available as well as a pale ale and a Vienna style lager both from Italian brewers Theresianer.
This dish had a great balance as the sharpness of the pickled radicchio cut through the creaminess of the cheese and the crispbread added much needed crunch. Nicola also loved the little Roquito peppers that accompanied the dish. These little teardrop shaped peppers have a wonderful sweet yet spicy flavour.
Again, I struggled to choose but in the end I opted for the home cured salmon tartare with quail egg.
Roughly chopped salt cured salmon mixed with whole grain mustard, chilli and chopped red pepper was wrapped around a soft boiled quail egg. I was expecting the raw quail yolk to be settled on top of the tartare but the hidden egg was a lovely surprise too. I loved the texture and balance of flavours but as the salmon is salt cured, the overall dish could be a little too salty for some.
So far so good. Both of our starters were very nice and it wasn't too long before our main courses arrived. I know that people often immediately think about pizza and pasta when they think Italian restaurants, now Gusto has plenty of choices in those two categories including a Peking Duck styled pizza, but people forget that the Italians know how to do meat and two veg very well!
Anyone who knows Nicola will know that if there was lamb in the menu then her choice for dinner was easy. True to form, she ordered the roast lamp rump with buttered soy beans, asparagus and triofette pasta. Now seeing red meat and pasta together might seem strange but this isn't the first time that we've encountered this unusual pairing, I had a fantastic lamb and pasta dish at Dei Frescobaldi in Harrods last year.
Nicola's main course was so good. The rump of lamb was cooked perfectly with a crust packed with tons of herbs. The meat tasted as though it may have been finished off over the grill as it had a lovely chargrilled smoky flavour. The lamb was served on a bed of triofette pasta mixed with sliced asparagus spears, soy beans and fresh pesto. Everything on the plate had a reason to be there with all of the flavours and textures working well together. Gusto couldn't be accused of scrimping on the portion size, in fact it was so genii routs that I had to help Nicola finish.
I really struggled to pick my own main course as so many of the options sounded delicious. I eventually plumped for the roast fillet of cod wrapped in prosciutto ham which came with pea purée, puy lentils and lemon oil. I had ordered a side of steamed spinach with sea salt as well but had I known that the cod also came with wilted salad leaves, I wouldn't have added the £3.75 side order.
Excuse me for a moment whilst I get on my soapbox - I really dislike the rising number of restaurants who think it's acceptable to serve a great looking plate of food but to cunningly omit the vegetables or potatoes from the dish, making it almost necessary to order a ridiculously overpriced side dish that makes up the whole meal! If Michelin starred chefs can serve up a plate that is actually a full meal, then why can't the chain restaurants? Ok, rant over.
Anyway, back to my main course. Wow! The cod fillet was well seasoned and cooked to perfection, the saltiness and smokiness from the prosciutto was a delicious balance. The sweetness from the pea purée worked very well with sharp lemon oil dressing and earthy lentils. All in all, this was a very good plate of food indeed.
Neither of us really had room for pudding but the sound of some of the desserts had our mouths watering. Nicola ordered the bombolini, which was a bowl of freshly cooked homemade donuts served with whipped cream and warmed chocolate sauce.
The donuts were light and fluffy and would make a great accompaniment to coffee after dinner, although after a hearty meal I think that this would work better as a sharing dessert rather than a standalone dish.
My own dessert was a thing of beauty as I ordered the Nutella & Marscapone calzone with vanilla ice cream. It looked like a proper adult pudding but in reality this was every sweet toothed child's fantasy!
Lashings of Nutella and creamy Marscapone were baked in a thin pizza dough, calzone style and drizzled with maple syrup - it was sweet and gooey, and ever so indulgent. The warmed up Nutella with the frozen creamy vanilla ice cream worked amazingly well and despite the fact that I knew that I would regret scoffing the lot, I couldn't help myself. It was just too tasty!
Suitable stuffed, it was time to go but not before we popped downstairs to see the loos. Brick tiled walls gave an almost Victorian feel to the toilets and as the restaurant had only been open for a few days, there were no issues to comment on. One thing that could cause problems though is threat when you go downstairs, you get a bit close and personal with the kitchen staff as you almost skirt the kitchen pass when you get to the bottom of the stairs. I can see this being awkward on the busy weekend nights.
Our meal and drinks were covered by the restaurant but my review is an honest account of our experience on the night. I would like to expend my thanks to the staff and management for looking after us on our visit to the restaurant, We loved the food and service across the evening and will definitely return in the coming months. The menu prices are perhaps higher than you might pay for an average night out but I believe that Gusto is anything but average. In short, Gusto serves up good quality food in very nice surroundings and I think it will become a popular choice almost Glasgow diners.
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Written by Gerry Haughian