It may very well be because I’m sat here typing this with a Brother’s Rhubarb & Custard cider (other brands of cider are available… but not this delicious) as I wait for the briquettes on the barbecue to heat up but I’m feeling very summery. Summery is such a crap word, I know. It’s what the PSBB (Pumpkin Spice Basic Bitches) use as their primary hashtag as soon as the temperature rises above 20 degrees and the cropped vests come out, but I can't help but join in. It's not the cider or the barbecue that's got me though - alfresco dining and seasonal beverages are just how we live now here on the Costa del England. Add on the brand new summer menu at Gusto Liverpool and I've come over all #HeatwaveBaby!
Venue and Atmosphere
Gusto is one of my favourite restaurants so I won’t even try and pretend my trip to the Liverpool branch in the Albert Dock was an intrepid exploration into the unknown. I knew very well what to expect and you’re damn right I was excited about it.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Gusto group, they offer a contemporary but authentic Italian dining experience right here in Blighty. The interiors are sleek - like really, really sleek. You’ve got monochrome photographs of old Italia to the left of you, black leather booths to your right and if you find yourself stuck in the middle of the Liverpool venue, you’ll have panoramic views of fairylight-embellished trees and a romantic spiral staircase to boot.
The atmosphere is equally as elegant. Let me tell you from years of first-hand experience, Liverpool can get real rowdy on a late Saturday evening (which is when we were there) but the decorum of the staff remained unfaltering. It’s lively, it’s popular and it has definitely captured that traditional, family dinner table vibe but if intimacy is what you’re after, there’s plenty of room for that too.
Food and drink
I could gush and gush about everything on the menu but I’ll keep it short and sweet and just discuss the newly-released summer offering… The seasonal menu has been inspired by a ‘trip of discovery to Milan’ and has given classic Milanese gastronomy the signature Gusto twist. So far from the mains and starters menu I’ve sampled the Saffron Risotto topped with Slow Cooked Ragu (£12.50), Saffron & Gran Moravia Arancini Rice Balls (£5.25) (gooey balls of cheese stuffed rice) and the Lamb Rump with Polenta & Pea Puree (£16.95) and have fallen in polygamous love with them all.
As far as the summer drinks and desserts are concerned, I’ve dabbled in a Salted Caramel Russian cocktail (richer than an oligarch - £8.00), a Chocolate Mousse, Bamobolini Doughnuts with Biscoff Dip (as decadent as it sounds) and an Espresso Flight Board which features four miniature espresso martinis - classic, gingerbread, hazelnut and vanilla. I mean, find me something on that list that isn’t worth drooling over? There’s plenty of choice for vegans and vegetarians too if you find yourself in the market for a Vegano Pizza or a fresh Rainbow Superfood Salad.
Gusto is great. There’s no two ways about it. I’ll compromise and say that yes, the quality of the food and drink does vary from venue to venue but in general, it’s not far off perfect. No, there aren’t any Michelin accolades involved and the dishes on offer are a celebration of classic rather than cutting-edge but if I were to describe Gusto (and Gusto Liverpool) in three simple words they would be: affascinante, delizioso and sofisticato.