By Jo Cooksey
The recently refurbished Gusto in Didsbury is looking very smart. Especially with its new, heated terrace area to the front that is surrounded by bushes and plants to add a little privacy from the street. Step inside and you are immediately taken by the décor. It is a great balance of rustic and glamourous and I am a total sucker for a tree with twinkly lights on. All very in keeping with the well-to-do air that has always surrounded this Manchester suburb.
We arrived quite early on a Wednesday evening but the restaurant was already busy, which was nice to see. As was the fact that there was a complete mix of customers; families, couples, groups of women and groups of men, a very well-behaved table of teens. Everyone looked happy and relaxed, which I have to say probably has a lot to do with lovely staff there.
Whilst we had a good look at the menu we ordered a couple of aperitifs and a little something to nibble on. Drinks wise it was a cooling spritz for me and a sophisticated martini for my guest, with a plate of classic, crisp Bruschetta piled with tomato, basil and garlic and finished with extra virgin olive oil. Marvellous.
For starters I chose the Sicilian Saffron and Gran Moravia Cheese Arancini Balls. These creamy on the inside, crispy on the outside deep-fired risotto balls are total comfort food and I could eat them until the cows come home. Gusto’s didn’t disappoint. Apparently, they are made fresh every day on the premises. They came served in a shallow bowl, reclining on a rich tomato and chili sauce. The kick of the sauce was good contrast to the creamy, cheesy lightness of the arancini.
My dinner companion chose the Warm Mushroom Crostini. For someone who hated mushrooms growing up, she can’t get enough of the woody fungi now. The mushrooms in this dish were served in creamy garlic sauce, scattered with deep fried crouton pieces, dotted with truffle oil and a toasted piece of artisan bread on the side. She declared them to be “soooo good” and better than any she ever got at home. I should perhaps point out that my food buddy is also my daughter and that I felt ever so slightly insulted at this critique.
If our first courses were hard enough to choose the mains were even harder. We love Italian food and we particularly love pizza, pasta and risottos. We the sort of people who rarely choose the meat and two veg options, we always want the ‘peasant’ food and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Even so it was difficult to make a decision because everything sounded so mouthwateringly good.
My daughter is trying to eat more of a vegetarian diet and so went for the Beetroot Risotto off the specials menu. Beetroot is one of my most favourite foods and this dish was amazing. The subtle earthiness of the beet against the creamy sharpness of the goat’s cheese was utterly gorgeous. Differing textures in the form of beetroot crisps and walnuts made for an interesting mouth feel too.
Also, on the specials list was Lobster and Prawn Spaghetti with a Shellfish and Tomato Bisque. This made my taste buds do a little dance of joy as I tried not to hoover it down. To me this tasted of holidays, in particular a long, lazy lunch I once had in Fornells, Menorca that was accompanied by an excellent bottle of Sancerre. I digress but this was an excellent plate of pasta and one that I would like to repeat in the near future.
Regular readers will know that when dining Italiano our benchmark of excellence is the Tiramisu, so that is what I ordered. Gusto’s version is very chic and elegant looking, with delicate layers more akin to the complex French Gâteau Opéra than the traditional Latin dessert. Frankly, I prefer something that doesn’t look as though it will insulted by having a spoon plunged into it. The crucial thing though was how did it taste? Erm, it was creamy and there was a sprinkling of cocoa but there was virtually no coffee taste and definitely no kick of alcohol. It was pleasant enough and someone had obviously put a lot of time and love in to making it, but it wasn’t Tiramisu.
However, Gusto did redeem their dessert menu with my daughter’s choice of Italian Rice Pudding served with glossy Sour Cherries and toasted Almond Flakes. Simple but delicious. This was a winner and gets our pudding thumbs up.
We had a great meal, in lovely surroundings, waited on by very friendly and professional staff. What more could we ask for? We’d certainly go back under our own steam.
We attended the course as guests of Gusto Didsbury but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.