Italian restaurants tend to be real crowd pleasers – if you don’t like either pizza, pasta, seafood or risotto then, er, we can’t be friends. I certainly love all those foods, so I was pleased to hear Birmingham was getting a branch of Gusto in the city centre, offering another option for my favourite cuisine. Not long after the opening, a few local food bloggers were invited down to eat from the set menu, which includes a starter, a main and a spritz cocktail for a reasonable £19.95. Read on to find out whether, indeed, the crowd was pleased, and whether you should be paying Gusto a visit soon…
The decor in Gusto was one of my favourite things about it – there is a really classy, chic feel about the place, created by clean branding and a couple of trees wrapped in white lights. The service throughout the night was great, and about the right level of formality for the style of restaurant. We started off with a few cocktails from the extensive menu, which were all presented simply and stylishly. It was nice to see some unusual options, such as the elderflower negroni, and each one was well balanced. My favourite was the raspberry and rosemary sling, created with Monkey Shoulder, Chambord, Disaronno and apple juice. Each flavour in this was able to come through, and the dash of lemon juice gave a sour kick at the end.
The starters on the set menu are all variations of bruschetta, including classic tomato and basil, smoked salmon and mascarpone, and smoked duck with caramelised chicory and ginger. I opted for the salmon, which had a generous portion of fish and was on perfectly crispy toast. The flavours weren’t particularly adventurous, but what was served was still delicious, and I would choose this option again.
For the main, I opted for the vegetarian pizza. The toppings of goats cheese, pine nuts, caramelised onion, pesto and mozzarella are somewhat uninspired, but this combination is so common becuase it’s just so darn good. This pizza was no exception; the base was thin and crispy and the toppings were generous and well distributed. I don’t think I was ever going to not like this main, but as a pizza-loving veggie, I am getting a little bored with seeing this combo on the menu!
Finally we were treated to a chocolate fondue for dessert, including sweet dough balls, brownie chunks and fresh fruit. Again, there was nothing original about this course, but it went down well all the same. I was perhaps a little too full by this point to fully appreciate it, but I can say that the sauce was delectable and the morello cherries were a nice touch.
Overall, like many other Italian chains, Gusto is not offering anything new or exciting, but it is ticking all the boxes in terms of a good meal out; tasty food, good service and a great atmosphere. The decor really does make it feel like somewhere special, and we all agreed it was certainly a romantic setting for a date night under one of the feature trees. I’d certainly go back to try some of the dishes in which I imagine they’ll really get to show off, and I won’t be able to resist washing it down with a couple more cocktails! Thank you to Katie and everyone at Gusto for having us, I’ll see you again soon!