A few months before Christmas our beloved Gusto Italiano closed down. Thankfully rumours of a new restaurant opening on Norfolk Row quickly spread as did a fair bit of excitement and intrigue. At least I was excited and intrigued.
Somehow I got it into my head that there would be more of a restaurant feel to the place. You know, somewhere to go for a full three courser, not just a sandwich. Quite nicely I turned out to be right.
We popped into Gusto (as it is now called; presumably it no longer feels the need to declare the nature of its cuisine to us) for a leisurely lunch in between Christmas and New Year. It was one of the (many) days when Gav was working a night shift so an early lunch with a couple of glasses of wine would set him up nicely for an afternoon snooze before going to work.
Anyone who went to Molly’s on Norfolk Row (I didn’t) will be astounded by the transformation. As you would expect from an Italian eatery the whole place oozes style. I am told that the idea behind the décor was to replicate the feel of sipping a glass of wine on the beach; hence the cool blue walls, the flashes of sunshine in the gold accessories and the sandy coloured chairs. There’s also a lot of dark wood in there adding warmth and earning its keep as a wine rack stretching along the far back wall.
The staff fit the bill too. Smartly dressed in the classic black and white combos, they worked swiftly and precisely whilst managing to keep the service friendly and comfortable.
We were seated on one of the many small tables for two. Normally I hate automatically being ushered to these tiny tables but as the place got busier and busier (with larger tables being split in order to accommodate further couples) I realised it wasn’t an automatic ushering but one of necessity.
Given the enormous wine rack it was hardly surprising to find a decent wine list. To be honest, there were fair few pricey bottles on there and if your budget’s a bit more Sheffield than Milan, I’d stick to the first page; which is what we did with a tasty Montepulciano. We also ordered olives to nibble as we decided on the food.
The menu is a nice size; starters, pasta, pizza and both fish and meat main courses. I narrowed the starters down to a choice between the scallops and the carpaccio of marinated fish. Expecting a plate of light and fresh raw fish with hints of the marinade of lemon and ginger I went for the carpaccio.
The dish looked promising and on first mouthful I was happy. It was delicious…. but it tasted as though it had been smoked. Maybe it had just been marinaded long enough to cure the fish; I’m not sure but I had expected something fresher tasting with a bit of zing from the ginger. Having said that, it was still tasty and I happily scoffed my way through.
Gav went for the sausage and fennel ragu with polenta and I have to admit to being jealous. It was deliciously rich and seemed to have been cooked away for hours. The sausage was tasty; the polenta was soft and perfectly smooth. It was a good job he had bread to pop up his juices otherwise he would have licked the bowl clean (literally).
Onto the mains and although I love a good pasta dish, I fancied the pork fillet wrapped in pancetta served on creamed potatoes and oyster mushrooms. It did not disappoint. The pork had a slight rose blush to it (something I’m starting to get used to, but not yet replicating at home) leaving the meat juicy and tender; something of a rarity in pork.
We also ordered a side of asparagus gratin.
In all fairness portions hadn’t been huge and this meant that we could fit dessert in too. One of the waitresses took me to the display of cakes and talked me through each one. This was a mistake as I then had to try and remember all ten of them to recite to Gav!
I went back to the table remembering both the chocolate and lemon varieties. I chose the chocolate which was gorgeous with a bit of tiramisu to it. In all fairness this cake alone makes a trip here worthwhile.
The lemon cake turned out to be almond and lemon with more of the former than the latter. It had a lovely texture, but I do feel responsible for getting the flavours confused and I think Gav was disappointed by the lack of zinginess.
We finished our wine and paid the bill (a little more than I’d expected at £86) before heading off home suitably fed and watered and ready for that snooze.
So. Was it an improvement to the last Gusto? Yes. Yes it certainly was. There are very few real Italian restaurants in the city centre. It’s hard enough to find an independent Italian never mind about somewhere that does the food well. With its glitz, glamour, super cool waiting staff and solid Italian cooking Gusto should be welcomed into the city centre with open arms.
Have you been yet? What’s your favourite dish?