It was with some fanfare that Gusto opened the doors to its impressive new city centre venue and it’s not hard to see why.
Tucked away on Lloyd Street in the building that previously housed Olive Press, the Manchester branch of the successful Italian restaurant has seen a total refit and looks great. We take our seat in a semi-circular leather booth in view of the large, square central bar and an open kitchen, including an impressive looking pizza oven. It’s a Monday evening and the feeling is relaxed and easy going but looking at the size of that bar you get the impression come Friday night the vibe will be altogether more vivacious.
To start I opt for the home cured salmon salad with shaved fennel, orange radish, radicchio and a crème fraiche dressing. It’s nice and light, perhaps a bit dill-heavy for some but it’s just what I was after really. My cohort has just returned from a weekend in Milan where he tried in vain to locate any calamari, so he opts for the deep fried squid and it’s crisp and tender as it should be.
To do things properly (not at all because of pure greediness) we squeeze in a pasta course to share in the shape of hand-made butternut squash ravioli with sauteed cavelo nero, sage and almonds. The delicate crunch of the almonds alongside slightly al dente pasta is a winner and we’re left wishing we’d maybe had more. No time for regrets though as we move on to mains and I go for roast lamb rump on a courgette, aubergine and tomato galette with salsa verde dressing. The meat comes pink in the middle and I match with the Don David Argentinian Malbec, a proper treat. Pan roast duck breast with carrot and star anise puree, pickled radicchio and red wine jus is similarly impressive and we share sides of french beans with shallots and rosemary and garlic roast potatoes.
For dessert the warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce fits the bill for me. Nuts perforate the smooth texture of the brownie and the fresh, fragrant pistachio ice cream cuts through the richness sweetly. Ginger panna cotta with confit clementine is an altogether more wholesome choice but feels every bit as indulgent and is presented beautifully.
Plenty to shout about then, and with a healthy living menu, rotating premium specials and extensive drinks list with some cracking cocktails there’s something to tease every palette and wallet alike. Safe to say we’ll be back, just save us a stool at the bar.