I know I say this a lot, but I’m quite the lucky duck! On a weekly basis I get invited to some really rather splendid events, however, when it comes to foodie invites, almost nothing will get between me and my dinner!
Imagine my delight when the team from the new Gusto Leeds, that recently opened on Greek Street got in touch to invite me down to sample their menu along with a host of other bloggers and press, I tell you, I was grinning from ear to ear. In fact I think the photo below basically sums up how I felt about the whole thing!
Give me a great cocktail menu, suave looking staff and a foodie offering that leaves me wanting everything and I am a happy girl. I’ve been to Gusto in Cookridge before, for a meeting, therefore a swift visit and I didn’t take it all in. This time I had hours to spend pouring over the menu, chatting with the staff and learning more about the brand.
I had the best table for sure, with Tom from Cous Cous Bang Bang, Sarah from Yorkshire Post Food & Drink and Emma at Leeds Living, sat up high on one of the retro, Gatsby style booths allowing for quite the people watching opportunity, something I rather like as a side to my cocktails at lunch time.
We were presented with the menus and told to ready ourself for the onslaught of tasty treats and culinary delights, something I am not adverse to.
Right, so less chat and more food…
First out of the kitchen was the Salmon Tartare; a delicately placed tower of home cured salmon, encasing the most perfectly cooked quail egg and accompanied by crème fraîche and red gazpacho. It was beyond delicious, the salmon was sympathetically seasoned and the sharp tang of the gazpacho balanced out the richness of the qualis egg.
Next up was the warmed asparagus, sat a top a creamed truffle dressing and draped in Grana Padano. Nothing in this world makes me feel more like going on holiday than a plate of asparagus, it just transports me to an Italian villa, watching the sun set with a cheeky glass of vino. Lucky as I snapped out of my day-dream our fab waitress arrived with a chilled glass of Rose and all was well in Leeds once more.
The asparagus was cooked to perfection, just enough bite to give it body whilst delicate enough to match beautifully with the truffle dressing and sharp cheese. This is most definitely going on my ‘eat again’ list for my next visit to Gusto.
I’m going to put this out there, I am not a prawn fan, they’re not something I would ever choose on a menu. However, the Gusto chefs may have cracked it with this truly simple yet stunning dish. The tiger prawns were cooked in a garlic, tomato and cream sauce and twinned with grilled ciabatta. I won’t lie we basically fought over the dish, in the end wiping it clean to make sure not one ounce of the sauce was left unconsumed. I highly recommend this for a light lunch option, it’s filling enough whilst remaining light and fragrant with a hint of spice.
From one seafood dish to another, and this time said seafood, including the most epic sardine, prawns, calamari topped with courgette, was fried in a light crispy tempura style batter served and spiced tomato mayonnaise that honestly I could have eaten by the spoon full. Again this is a great starter but also would be perfect for a light lunch with a side salad and obligatory white wine spritzer.
The batter was light enough not to feel oily or stodgy, whilst remaining crisp enough to give the dish a real bite, even when submerged in the heavenly spiced tomato mayonnaise.
To be honest, I was taken aback by the small dish offerings, there were none of the usual safe starters that clog up so many restaurants menus, instead there was a real variety of flavours, and I challenge any one to not need a good 15 minutes just to choose something. So refreshing to have great light options, and makes Gusto a place I will always recommend to people heading out for a lunch meeting or early dinner after work or long day shopping.
Whilst we waited with excitement for the main courses to begin winding their way to our table, we all took the opportunity to try the cocktail offerings, which again lean far from the usual, bog standard cocktail menu, and instead provide well thought out, quirky drinks that compliment the dishes whilst also making us all a little tipsy.
These included, the lemon and thyme Martini, a truly quirky cocktail made up of, Bombay Sapphire, Limoncello, dry vermouth and lemon bitters stirred through with a touch of gomme and fresh thyme. Don’t be fooled by the look of this one, it packs a real punch! Served in a stunning retro Martini glass, it was a sensation for all the senses.
Tom went for the Hazelnut and Fig Martini, which I was impressed to see had a whole slice of fig to garnish it! Fresh fig, lemon juice and hazelnut syrup shaken with Fratello and Martell VS makes up this tasty treat, fair to say it’s rich and surprisingly moreish.
I like to think I’m a real drinker, and the Bitter Cherry is not for the faint hearted, it’s a serious drink, with a surprising touch of sweetness for those who, unlike me, aren’t a bitter lover. Amaro, Illy coffee liqueur and Cherry Marnier are stirred together, producing a beautiful mix of bitter flavours and sweetness. This is my new signature cocktail for sure, just need to try recreate it at home.
Let’s be honest, pizza is one of the few things in life that should not be messed with, tinkered with or in any way changed. Or at least that’s what I thought before the Truffle Verdi was placed in front of me, in all its green glory. This is most certainly not your average pizza, the standard tomato base has been replaced with a crushed pea spread, topped with a truffle dressing, courgette, goat’s cheese and a smattering of red chard. No oozing cheese, no heavy base, instead a truly tasty twist on a classic.
Think all of us were surprising fans of it, and again something I’m sure I’ll be ordering again.
But if green pizza isn’t your thing, then the next dish may be for you, in all its mighty and meaty magnificence. In fact it was so fantastic that I only managed to get one shot of it before it was demolished by the table, and rightly so.
The lamb was cooked bang on, and although I’m not the biggest lamb fan, it was packed full of flavour, and if you’re a lamb fan I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed!
I eat a whole heap of chicken and always love finding new ways to cook it and sides to pair it with, this roast chicken breast on a bed of creamed leeks and scattered with butter fried gnocchi was spectacular. Crisp skin, moist and dense breast paired with the fresh leeks and moorish gnocchi, I think this was my favourite main course dish, turning something so simple into such a fulfilling dish, made me very happy.But no main course is complete without a side dish or two, and for me the true winners of this whole meal were the side dishes, which similarly to starters tend to become a little staid and predictable, so not the case at Gusto. It’s clear that as much care and passion goes into the side dishes as goes into the show stopping main courses.
First up was the Trofiette pasta with asparagus, soy beans and tomato which was drizzled in beautiful oil. The variety of textures and flavours added to every dish in a different way. I would happily have a huge bowl of this as a main course, and in fact next time I’m in, that’s exactly what I’m going to ask for.
For me potatoes are at their best when mashed or fried, however, the baked rosemary and garlic potatoes we’re without doubt some of the tastiest potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Again taking something so simple and making it spectacular by making it all about the potato. I’m salivating just writing about them…
We had a little break before the desserts arrived, time for more cocktails and chats about our mutual love for Leeds. There really is nothing better than spending time with others who are passionate about what they do, why they write and most importantly, who does the best burgers in the city.
And then the desserts arrived, and the sheer level of cooing was deafening…
I could write a whole post just about this meringue, it was beyond epic. It was beyond huge, packed full of the tastiest whipped cream, strawberries and fresh passion fruit whilst on the side were the cutest prosecco passion fruit cubes that melted in my mouth.
I need this dessert in my life, every day, for every meal!
To wrap up the whole meal was this chocolate lovers dream come true, a chocolate fondue with doughnuts, strawberries, biscuits and brownie pieces to dip in. I thought I was full, then this arrived and suddenly I had a little space left.
The whole meal was incredible, not only because the dishes offered something for everyone, but also thanks to the great team who served us, their knowledge was flawless and their drink making skills even more spectacular.
Huge thank you to Gusto for the invite and for spoiling us all rotten.