Gusto is bringing a taste of Italy to Leeds, with no need for a plane ticket. House of Coco writer Jenna went along to find out more. Here’s how it went…
Now let’s set the scene. I’m in my brand new apartment on the hottest day of the year. I look out my window to see the sun absolutely roaring, and look in the mirror to see unbearable frizz and hefty bags under my eyes. First thought – ‘I need a holiday, noooooowwwww’. I’ve been working my butt off as a Sales & Events coordinator for a string of bars, and honestly my fridge is sadder than the one on Bridget Jones with the mouldy cheese. Im sweating, exhausted and ready to spend my evening infront of the TV. So when the team at Gustos threw me the lifeline of their new restaurant launch night. I jumped at the chance. Anything PR makes my eyes light up, and if you pair that with food and exclusivity – I’m a happy gal.
Now I love raving about eating just as much as the rest of us. Soullessly pausing to Instagram snapshot my meal and shamelessly checking in on Facebook when I’m at a great restaurant. I’m a typical smartphone user, but when I got to Gusto, that sorta changed. I’d just got out of crazy traffic in a boiling hot taxi and fell through the door. What I found inside was total calm. The air con was on, and I was greeted by two smiling hostesses who directed me to the bar, where I met my date for evening. Yes, that’s not a metaphor for a double gin and tonic, it was actually a lovely man friend of mine. After a short wait (and a few drinks later) we were taken over to our table. It was an intimate half-booth in the centre of the restaurant, looking right at the open kitchen. It’s always such a good sign when you see a real Pizza Oven – no Papa Johns here, it was so authentic. I had to remind myself to take pictures as I was so taken with the place.
After we cosied up and started reading the menu, we were greeted by our lovely server Niall. This added to the authenticity as even though he was a broad Yorkshire man, he had an Italian look about him and he was very smart. After working in the hospitality industry myself for around six years, I know that a good appearance and a witty charm is a sure far way to win over customers. My date and him had such good rapport and it really made the evening and he was definitely mentioned in our feedback cards!
Although he was clearly new, he had a great knowledge of the menu and the recommendations were strong – with such a big varied menu, this was ridiculously helpful! For starters we settled on the Mussels and also the Dough Petals. How cliche I know, but who goes to Italy and doesn’t have dough balls or seafood ?! Whilst waiting for our starters I really started to drink in the surroundings. Not only is the atmosphere relaxing in there, but it’s luxe and kinda romantic. The lights were slightly dimmed, and the comfy leather seating really made you feel like you were either in down town New York or Milan. My first thought was definitely ‘this is such a good date place, yessssss!’
When the starters arrived you definitely got that wow factor. The presentation was impeccable, safe to say they weren’t your average dough balls – they warranted a Snapchat story! As for my mussels they came out in a classic dish with a lid, that was swiftly removed to reveal all of the little shells inside. Every shell was full with fleshy fish – and I can safely say they were better than some I’ve eaten on the coast. The music in the place was noticeable, but not overpowering, which meant we could have decent conversation and also hear the buzz of the other guests around us. Definitely something that can be harder to find in the city. The last thing you want is it to be gimmicky with ‘that’s amore ‘ blasting out the speakers.
After we’d ordered a few more drinks (this time the prosecco came out!) it was time for the main event. I ordered the Prawn, Garlic & Chilli Linguine and he ordered the Roast Chicken with Gnocci. Another server brought these over (I’m a fan of continuity with servers so this was kinda confusing) and we dug in. I did take a little snap, and thought ‘oh the chicken looks way prettier than my pasta’ but then slapped myself as how gracious can a bowl of pasta really look?! My linguine was spicy but flavourful and the prawns were huge! Definitely king prawns and there were plenty of them. Nothing worse than when you order seafood and get about three prawns and maybe a mussel. It also went perfect with the prosecco as seafood usually does. My date said the chicken was amazinggggg and even though there was Gnocci, it wasn’t overly filling. This meant one thing – room for dessert.
We got our mate Niall over to suggest what to finish the evening off with, he raved about the Chocolate & Coffee Mousse and even a manager mentioned it! So I thought, let’s go for it. My date played it safe with a Chocolate Brownie – but who doesn’t like a chocolate brownie? It’s safe to say dessert was one of the highlights of the evening, the mousse was like diving into a melted Mars Bar and was served in a beautiful coupette glass. The brownie was finished off with that Classic Italian twist with pistachio ice cream and looked a total dream on the plate. All in all, my experience at Gusto was one to remember.
Stepping out onto the streets of Leeds afterwards was a total shock as you really do believe you’re in Rome. The service was second to none, the atmosphere was perfect and the food to die for. It’s a little pricier than some of the other haunts in town, but boy is it worth it. Thanks so much to the Gusto team for taking my drab Tuesday to a fab Tuesday, I will definitely be back!
To book your authentic Italian experience, give their Business Development Manager, Emily Moon, a call on 0113 200 5920 or drop them a line on leedsbdm@ gustorestaurants.uk.com . They’re located right in the city centre on the infamous Greek Street if you’d like to just pop in!
For all you social media fans, they’re reachable at @GustoLeeds on Twitter and Instagram!