*All food and drink complimentary*
Don’t you wish time machines existed? I’ve always been entranced by the roaring 20s (if I could just sip a Bellini with F. Scott Fitzgerald that would be grand). Luckily, I had a review planned at Gusto on Deansgate, Manchester where I could happily indulge literary fantasies. The building itself is a stunning character in all its art deco inspired glory. It’s not difficult to be swept away by the cool, glamourous setting. Marble floors, dining booths that make you want to idle just for a minute longer, chic chandeliers and twinkly lights are part and parcel of the Gusto experience.
Slipping into our luxurious booth, we kicked off with a few cocktails. I sipped my drink of choice, a Bellini. This pineapple drink was a contemporised version of the classic peach puree Bellini with a twist. It was good, just a teeny bit lemony for me, although the addition of Tuaca was inspired, to give it a whisper of orange on the swallow. We had a generous portion of mixed olives to start our meal; the green variety was subtly zesty and highly moreish.
For starter I had burratina mozzarella (pane gratuga, bitter lemon purée, pickled radicchio). I’m a big fan of good burratina and Gusto’s offering didn’t disappoint. The solid mozzarella casing had just enough bite to satisfy, whilst the creamy cheese filling with a slight tang was a pleasure to wolf down. The pane crumbs and radicchio provided texture adding depth to an already sophisticated dish making this one of the most grown up dishes I have enjoyed in a long time.
My dining partner had chicken Caesar salad which she enjoyed very much. My single forkful corroborated her enthusiastic expression. I loved the refreshing yet creamy dressing enveloping the still warm and very generous chicken pieces.
For main I had roast chicken breast (creamed leeks, tomato and caper dressing, fried gnocchi). The chicken stack made for a striking dish. When swiped through the creamed leeks, the meat took a new direction, to render it beautifully sweet and oddly more tender. I loved the gnocchi. Much like a popular crisp slogan, once you pop, you can’t stop. I could have happily munched on a bowl of these all night, because the slightly chewy exterior of the gnocchi was wondrous in all its burnished glory.
My dining partner had the chargrilled tuna steak (peperonata, spinach leaves, tomato and caper dressing). The tuna steak was meaty and fell apart with the most cursory of knife prods, rendering it stunningly melt in your mouth. Yes, I snaffled a forkful (or was that two?), because the dish smelled good and tasted great. The peperonata had a whisper of vinegar to give it a piquant kick, which was the perfect crown for the tuna.
The dessert menu is one that will make you sit up and take notice; from sorbet and jelly to tiramisu, there is something for everyone. I ordered bombolini (homemade mini doughnuts, orange Chantilly cream, chocolate sauce). These mini doughnuts were pretty as a picture and an absolute joy to eat. The doughnuts had a good rise and were light as air. They could easily have been eaten sans chocolate (blasphemy I know) or double dunked in the cream and chocolate (now you’re talking). This is an open apology to the wait-staff serving on the evening. I am extremely sorry if my constant grinning (a la Batman’s Joker) was off-putting. Blame your magical chef, who MADE me enjoy that dessert so much.
My dining partner had the Nutella and mascarpone calzone (vanilla ice-cream), which is one of her favourite desserts at Gusto. I had a forkful (I’m bad at maths, it may have been three) and could see why she loved it so. The calzone pastry was light in texture and gloriously ivory. The oozing Nutella was an even bigger joy with a magnificent puddle of vanilla ice-cream.
With standout sides (French beans with shallots and tender-stem broccoli with flaked almonds were very good), gorgeous mains and a stunning dessert list, Gusto has just leap-frogged onto my list of places to pop into when within a 20 mile radius.
Gusto is that wonderfully versatile place that is perfect for being proposed to in, or a lunch date. Speaking of lunches, Gusto has an excellent set lunch menu starting from just £11.95 for two courses and an early dining menu for just £19.95 which also includes a fabulous Spritz cocktail. For a stylish dining date that will impress, head on over to Gusto now.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 9
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Address: 4 Lloyd Street (off Deansgate), Manchester M2 5AB
Tel: 0161 832 2866