The Great Gusto

In a food scene dominated by hipster popups, proudly serving Korean kimchi from a rusty kiln round the back of an old car park, it’s nice to see a little classic elegance in the form of the new and improved menu at Gusto, Leeds. House of Coco writer Sam Johnson went along this week to sample their new offering and here’s his lowdown….

The building’s art deco facade on the newly revived Greek Street is a nod to the splendour of 1922 Manhattan. Inside, the parquet floor, green studded leather and low hanging copper lighting suggest more of a Harlem jazz bar than Gold Coast Mansion, but we’re happy all the same.

Italy governs the wine list, quite rightly, and we opted for the San Silvestro Cortese – a light and fresh vino from the rolling hills of Piedmont (£24).

Gusto’s new menu additions to the mains are immediately appealing, with ‘Osso Bucco of Veal’ (£18.95) as the crowning glory. ‘Osso Bucco’, the staple for a magnificent Italian Sunday lunch, quite literally means ‘bones with holes’, which is probably why it’s not translated on the menu. That said, it was sensational, to the point where you can’t help but describe how it “just fell off the bone” and then immediately hate yourself for sounding like your mum.

Admittedly, veal was the slightly controversial choice. If you’d prefer to keep it classic Italian American, the pizza and pasta choices are extensive – from lobster and truffle (£23.95) to peking duck (£12.50) and anything in between. There’s also a surprisingly impressive seafood section, which is flanked by the countess of all fish, pan fried halibut with basil butter, smoked garlic and aubergine (£23.95), created by Gusto chef Seb Polakowski at London’s House of Peroni.

Like all things, if some dishes aren’t broken, don’t fix them. Anyone who knows anyone who has ever visited one of Gusto’s 12 (soon to be 15) restaurants will know of legendary Nutella and Marscapone Calzone (£5.95) from their sinful dessert menu. Now we’re not ones for overstatements, but that said, if the Roman Gods themselves climbed down from heaven and personally carved you a dessert out of clouds, it wouldn’t even come close to this.

Basically, you get everything you’d expect from a swanky grand café; crisp white tablecloths; gleaming glassware; servers in tight waistcoats. But they do all of this without the pretentious attitude that we’ve come to expect from ‘nice places’. Nobody here is going to air kiss you and call you “dah-ling!” but they will tell you that you’re a “bella donna” even when you haven’t been bothered to wing your eyeliner.

Gusto. Greek Street, Leeds, LS1 5RU. Open every day 12pm-11pm. 0113 200 5920.

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