Review: The New Spring Menu at Gusto, Birmingham

The Italian restaurant Gusto on Colmore Row has been open for a while now, and after a couple of good experiences, including back when they opened, I’d been looking forward to a refresh of their menu. So when myself and a few other bloggers were invited down a couple of weeks ago to try their new spring offering, I was fully looking forward to a repeat of their crowd-pleasing food and good service. However, unfortunately, this was far from the case. Rarely do I have to call out a restaurant for a completely pants experience, but strap in lads, ’cause I’m about to do just that.

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The restaurant is situated on the square of Pigeon Park, and upon entering you walk into an airy, stylish bar area. I arrived promptly at the time we had been asked to arrive, asked to sit ‘over there’ by the staff member on the door, and was left waiting 20 minutes before they would even serve us tap-water (and that had to be nagged for). We were eventually brought over a cocktail each – I had the apricot smash, which was very drinkable and pleasant but nothing too exciting. We also were served a meze dish to nibble on, which went down fine.

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We then were taken to the main dining room. For a Tuesday night it was full of diners and had a buzzing atmosphere. Unfortunately, the hospitality of the staff didn’t match the ‘good times’ feeling of the place. Throughout the night we had long waits between courses, were only once asked if our food was okay, and were generally made to feel like an inconvenience (by all but one of the servers). Call me fussy, but it’s never a good sign if a restaurant knows they have a table full of people who are going to write about their experience online and they can’t even be bothered to get that right.

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Onto the new menu options. For my starter I ordered the indulgent dish of deep-fried toma cheese. Anything with deep-fried and cheese in the same breath sounds pretty amazing to me, but frankly, it was just okay; melted cheese sticks and a nondescript spicy sauce. Having said this, it was one of the better options on the table – I tried some of the plum tomato and basil tart and I am quite simply at a loss as to how that got approved for the menu. Equally, those that ordered the smoked salmon and mascarpone couldn’t finish it, and not because it was a large portion…

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The new vegetarian option was a baked aubergine Milanese, and being a big fan of the vegetable I was feeling pretty optimistic. What I was served was pretty much my starter, with the addition of aubergine and some sad tomatoes. Same nondescript sauce. Same breadcrumbs. Same cheese. Same rocket. It’s as if when they were creating the new veggie options they were given a Ready Steady Cook ingredients bag and had to make do with what they had. To add salt to the wound, this dish comes in at £10.25, which for two slices of aubergine seemed a little on the steep side to me, to say the least. I would comment on the taste, but I did that in the previous paragraph.

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Fortunately, things picked up a little when it came to dessert. A generous serving of pleasant, fluffy tirimasu, and, because why the hell not, a tirimasu martini to wash it down with. Both of these were tasty and probably something I would order again, as the dessert was specifically described as home-made, which seemed to be an outlier in the general theme.

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Overall, we were all left feeling disappointed and distinctly uninspired by our meal and the service at Gusto. I imagine we probably caught the serving team on a bad day, as I’ve had a great time in the past, but for me, there is no excuse for the multiple poor additions to the new menu. Thanks all the same to the guys at Gusto for having us.

The food and drink on this evening were complimentary for review purposes. This does not affect my honest opinion.
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