It doesn't seem that long ago since the Glasgow branch of Gusto opened it's doors on Bothwell Street back in March 2015. Since then, they have been wowing diners with their take on good quality Italian cooking inside the comfort of the art-deco styled restaurant.
Gusto is one of the brands owned by the Living Ventures Group, the Glasgow branch is one of 15 restaurants in the chain, with more to be announced during 2016. We've eaten there a few times in the last year although we've probably been in more to take advantage of Gusto's fantastic £4.95 weekend cocktail offers, so when we were invited back to try out the new look menu, we jumped at the chance to return.
After a few pre-dinner drinks across the road at Grill on the Corner (another Living Ventures property), we made our way to Gusto with time to partake in a cheeky cocktail before we were shown to our table. Nicola settled quickly on an Aperol Spritz whilst I took the bartender up on his suggestion of a wonderful Apple & Elderflower Martini made using Gin Mare, apple schnapps, St Germain elderflower liqueur, apple juice and rosemary.
The wine list at Gusto has something to suit most budgets in both red and white wines and in the end we settled on a bottle of San Silvestro Cortese del Piemonte Adelasia. Made from the Cortese grape, the wine is dry, fresh and light with a fruity, flowery bouquet and lemon peel finish and was a perfect accompaniment to our impending starters.
There's no shortage of choice on the starters menu with classic Italian options like meatballs in tomato sauce, and Burratina mozzarella being joined by smoked salmon and tiger prawns. Nicola decided on the deep fried calamari with lemon mayonnaise (£7.25) which came with a little mixed leaves and the obligatory wedge of lemon. We've eaten a lot of good calamari in our time and Gusto stepped up to the plate with soft tender squid, coated in a light crispy batter. The calamari rested on a bed of rocket and radicchio leaves which gave a nice bitter contrast to the sweet squid whilst the zingy lemon mayonnaise left the mouth feeling fresh and ready for the next piece.
I really struggled to choose but decided to go for the asparagus spear with dolcelatte mayonnaise and roasted red peppers (£6.25). This was a risk from me as I'm not the biggest fan of blue cheese but was curious about how the dolcelatte was being used in the starter. I needn't have worried as my starter was a light fresh dish that set me up well for my main. The mayonnaise was actually more like at creamy sauce and had just the right amout of salty dolcelatte crumbled into it to act as a salty, tangy foil for my asparagus and sweet roasted pepper.
If choosing a starter was tricky, deciding on a main course was even more difficult. Well it was for me because as soon as Nicola heard that Lobster Thermidor was available on the specials board, she was sorted. A choice of half lobster (£22.95) and whole lobster (£45) was available, served either Thermidor or with Sauce Américaine, Nicola opted for the half lobster Thermidor which was served with hand cut chips. If you've never had Lobster Thermodor, you need to treat yourself - It's one of life's luxuries! Thermodor sauce is a classic French recipe, created by the great Auguste Escoffier, made with fresh cream, butter, brandy, mustard, shallots, parsley (sometimes tarragon). The lobster meat is removed from the claw, tail,and head before being tossed in the sauce with Gruyere cheese then put back into the lobster shell and grilled until the cheese is bubbling. Gusto's Thermidor was fantastic, the succulent, sweet lobster meat works so well with the rich creamy sauce. The hand cut chips were delicious - crispy on the outside and fluffy inside, helped by the inclusion of a little dipping pot of Thermidor sauce, served on the side.
I should have been jealous of Nicola's lobster but I was distracted by my own main. I had ordered the lamb rump with truffled cheese flavoured piccol ravioli and tomato sauce. The huge lamb rump was seasoned well and cooked pink, just how I like it. The accompanying tomato sauce was packed with herbs and carried a little saltiness from the inclusion of black olives while the little cheesy ravioli had enough truffle flavour to cut through the sharp sauce. Everything on the plate was there for a reason and I had no problem I finishing the lamb with ease.
If I have one critisism it would be that my lamb dish was missing a green vegetable. I've written about this before and it's still a sore point with me. I hate the way that chain restaurants think that it's ok to charge for side dishes that would have looked much better on the plate to start with! If a Michelin starred restaurant can serve a meal of carbohydrate, protein and vegetables, why should I have to pay £3.50 for a bowl of tenderstem broccoli in order to balance my meal? That said, the broccoli cooked with red chilli and almonds was very nice.
After a short break we both still had a little room left for pudding with Nicola ordering the Gusto Tiramisu, a fantastic version of the Italian classic dessert. Often, homemade tiramisu can be too heavy with cream and marscapone, or too sweet with sugar or too bitter from coffee, but the Gusto version was wonderfully light and well flavoured with coffee and chocolate. A true 'pick me up' indeed!
After a hearty meal, a light pudding always goes down well so when I spotted the almond milk panna cotta with honeycomb, flaked almonds and lemon curd, my decision was easy. Served in a slightly less convensional manner, the panna cotta was set in a bowl with just the right amount of wobble. This was an accomplished dessert, the contrasting texture of homemade honeycomb, sharp redcurrants, mint and gooey lemon curd were the perfect foil to the rich creamy almond flavoured panna cotta.
Normally after three courses, we haven't room for coffee or after dinner drinks but for some reason, we were in "full on dining mode" so decided to end the evening with a couple of espressos before making our way back across the road to Grill on the Corner for a nightcap. I love a good espresso after a meal and the rich nutty coffee in Gusto was a great way to end our meal.
As mentioned earlier, we were invited to try the new menu and as a result, our food was complimentary, (We did pay for our drinks) but my review is a true reflection on our evening. I would like to thank Gusto Glasgow for asking us back and also thank the management and staff for looking after us so well on the night.
Check out the Gusto website for information of special offers and don't forget to sign up to the Gusto Dining Club where you can get up to 40% off all food across the chain. Finally, you can keep up with news from the Glasgow restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.