I’m a Didsbury girl through and through. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve seen many changes. I remember Gusto when it was Est Est Est (yes, I am that old) and it has always been a local, neighbourhood eatery, a restaurant for all occasions and for none.
I love that when you go in there’ll be a table celebrating a birthday, a few couples on their first or fiftieth date or just people who fancied a good meal. You don’t have to dress up to go there, or you can dress up to the nines, whichever. It’s so relaxed with very little pretention.
I’ve been itching to review Gusto since I started blogging and I was pretty sure we’d be in for a good night with some great food.
We were seated next to their open kitchen. I love sitting there watching the hustle and bustle and the quiet concentration of the chefs, it can get a bit warm up that end of the restaurant in the summer, but on a drizzly February evening it was just the ticket.
We ordered a bottle of Italian red, a very acceptable Feudi d’Albe Montepulciano. It was easy drinking and matched our food beautifully.
To start, Matthew, my long suffering husband ordered the mussels in white white, garlic and cream served with ciabatta. He was cock-a-hoop over this dish. He reckons mussels are a good way to judge a restaurant. If the mussels are prepped properly and the sauce without grit you know kitchen standards are going to be alright. He loved the tender mussels and the rich, flavoursome sauce. They smelt incredible, even to my vegetarian nostrils. He’ll be having those again.
I opted for the Burratina mozzarella cheese, slow roasted beetroot and herb wafers. This was undoubtedly the prettiest thing I’ve ever eaten. The mozzarella was soft and yielding, beautifully creamy, it almost sighed as I ate it. It was well matched against the tang of the beetroot, with the crunch of the herb wafers adding a welcome contrast of texture.
My only moment of pickiness was I wasn’t keen on the crunchy seeds mixed in with the beetroot, I’d’ve preferred them on the side, but that’s a personal preference. It was a delightfully light start to the meal.
On to the mains and I chose the Rigatoni Primavera which was rigatoni, butternut squash, celeriac, carrot, cabbage, green beans, pine nuts and cream. Being a real vegetarian the waitress kindly offered to get me the vegetarian Parmesan instead of the standard non-veggie one. This was one of those lovely, attention to detail touches that really make the difference in terms of customer service.
The Rigatoni Primavera was a well executed dish with the pasta being just a nudge over al dente. The vegetables were tasty and the celeriac was sweet and tender and I could’ve eaten a big dish of that alone. The green beans added crunch, it was a lovely rich, wintery pasta dish.
My carnivorous husband went for the pan roast breast of duck, balsamic shallot tartlette with red wine and beetroot reduction with sides of buttered savoy cabbage and pine nuts and a dish of lovely crispy baked garlic and rosemary roast potatoes.
The duck was pink with perfectly rendered fat, he said it was about the best duck he’s ever eaten. The shallot tartlette was sweet, unctuous and the pastry crisp and golden. The red wine and beetroot reduction (which I had a little dib-dab at with my finger) was sweet and I’m told worked well with the duck.
The sides which I ably assisted in the consumption of were lovely. I adore cabbage so there was a little battle of the quickest fork going on between us. The potatoes were hot, crispy and garlicky. We loved them (I was so inspired by them I knocked up something similar to go with Sunday lunch).
The portion sizes were just greedy enough to make us feel nicely full, but still magically have room for pudding. I plumped for the Bombolini, homemade mini doughnuts with chocolate sauce and cream. These arrived piping hot, sprinkled with sugar with a pot of melted chocolate and a dollop of cream on the side. These were amazing, far, far superior to the hot doughnuts you get in huts by the seaside, altogether classier and if I’m honest I’ve thought about little else since I ate them.
My companion chose the hot chocolate and hazelnut brownie with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce. As is the law I scoffed a couple of mouthfuls of the warm, moist brownie. The pistachio ice cream was a bit special too. Definitely a contender for brownie of the year.
We rounded off our meal with a Godfather cocktail each. We’d had an exceptionally delightful, laid back, fun evening; with three courses of excellent food, a bottle of good wine, with attentive and considerate service and all just five minutes walk from our house. Perfection.
Gusto, Didsbury can be found at 756 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2DW Tel: 0161 445 8209
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of the restaurant and ate for free in return for our honest review.