Last week I managed to score a great deal; my colleagues and I were offered the chance to go to the new Gusto restaurant on Greek Street for the soft launch and enjoy all the food we wanted…absolutely free! Of course we would have been mad to turn this down, so we booked our table and headed town for what would become a very, very long lunch.
We had to pay for our own drinks, but as we were getting an entire meal free of charge we didn’t mind splashing out on some rosé prosecco to kick us off. At £25 a bottle between three of us it doesn’t break the bank, and also meant we didn’t go back to work sloshed for the afternoon.
We were seated quickly and our waitress immediately arrived with menus to run us through the specials. It was a busy lunchtime and some of the starters had already run out when we arrived at 1.30, but luckily nothing I wanted to order. We were offered some nibbles while we looked at the menu which we accepted, and a server brought over focaccia bread with oil and balsamic vinegar, olives and sun dried tomatoes. The tomatoes were a little bland and could have benefited from a drizzle of olive oil, but the focaccia was delicious – my ongoing struggle to not fill up on bread before a big meal continues!
I ordered tomato and basil bruschetta to start, followed by a medium rare fillet steak with roasted tomatoes and fries. The bruschetta topping was gorgeous, the fresh tomato soaked in oil (if you hadn’t already realised, yes I am a bit obsessed with olive oil), but the bread base was quite hard and brittle. It would possibly have been easier to eat if I’d abandoned my cutlery, but Gusto doesn’t really feel like a finger-food kind of place…
My steak was pretty delicious, chargrilled on the outside but the perfect ‘rare side of medium rare’ on the inside, and flavoured with a splash of garlic butter. However I would comment that there are plenty of better places to get a good steak in Leeds, and if I came back to Gusto I’d probably go with a pasta dish and save my money for a specialist steak restaurant.
We were all pretty full by this point but the dessert menu was a strong list, tempting most of my table. I caved to peer pressure and decided on a chocolate and coffee mousse, but when I came to order I found it was sold out. I was initially disappointed, but when my second choice – a strawberry and passionfruit mess – arrived, I found myself thanking my lucky stars for all the people who had scoffed the mousses. The mess was perfect; flaky meringue filled with a light, fluffy cream and drizzled with fresh strawberries and passionfruit. Its flawless presentation was just the cherry on top.
Gusto definitely has its work cut out; I had a good meal and the suburban branch in Cookridge does well, but it will be interesting to see how it fares in the more competitive environment of city centre. It’s a tough scene – stalwarts Bibis and Salvo’s (Headingley) have been dominating the Leeds Italian scene for years, while newer independents such as LIVIN’italy and Ipsum Vinoteca are enjoying brilliant success. Chains have their place in any city, but with Zizzi, Carluccio’s and San Carlo already at home here, Gusto may struggle to distinguish itself from the crowd. Welcome to Leeds Gusto, hope you can handle it!