First look at Gusto Birmingham

When details of the new Gusto restaurant appeared on the boarded fronts of The Grand Birmingham I was super excited. I’m originally from Cheshire so grew up visiting Gusto in Alderley Edge – I even remember it as ‘Est Est Est’ before it was rebranded – and it has always been one of my go-to restaurants whenever I am home.

As if I needed an excuse to visit, the opening coincided with my last day at work, so we booked a table for Saturday to celebrate. When we arrived, we were greeted by the wonderful Adam Hayes. We sat right by the floor to ceiling windows which are so, so good for people watching. I could sit there all evening with a glass of wine watching the world go by. As with all Living Ventures venues the interior had been beautifully thought out, and included the signature olive tree covered in fairy lights. Something else I liked was the way the restaurant had been split into three zones, meaning the noise from larger groups didn’t overwhelm smaller tables!

Onto the food: to start, we ordered the oven roasted pork ribs and the meatballs in spiced tomato sauce. We also had some baked rosemary focaccia bread to nibble on; this was good but a little thick for me. I would recommend the dough petals or garlic pizza bread over the focaccia as when I’ve tried these before they’ve been perfect.

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The meatballs, served with a rich, thick tomato sauce and topped with cheese, were a lovely comforting starter without being too heavy. The pork ribs came smothered in a delicious tomato and barbecue sauce and was accompanied by a crunchy (possibly pickled?) vegetable salad. The salad was beautiful, it was light and fresh and really lifted all the flavours in the dish.

To drink we ordered a bottle of ‘Gomila’, a Slovenian wine. I had no idea that Slovenia even produced wine but apparently they do, and it’s good! Another thing I like about Gusto in general is that they always give you a separate ice bucket so that the wine doesn’t clutter up the table. I had been out on Friday so didn’t fancy anything more than wine but they do have a brilliant cocktail menu as well!

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I am a huge pizza and pasta lover so I usually stick with those but I thought I’d branch out a little for our main course. Firstly, we had the pan fried fillet of sea bass. To my immense joy, the crispy vegetable salad made another appearance in this dish. Seriously Gusto, can you put this on the menu as a side so that I can order it every time?! The sea bass was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Usually I have a phobia of eating fish skin because so often it’s soggy and slimy and disgusting, but here it was crisp and lovely and I ate it all!

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We also ordered the slow cooked pork belly which was equally amazing – I think this is my top pick of the evening. The pork belly was gorgeous and soft, and perfectly complemented by the crisp texture of the crackling and the sweet sharpness of the apple sauce. Pork belly dishes can sometimes be really heavy but Gusto cleverly serve it with gnocchi rather than potato, and add hints of basil. This stops the dish being too stodgy and, most importantly, means you have room for dessert!

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Sticky toffee pudding is my absolute favourite dessert EVER and I know that the Gusto version is damn good. However I was intrigued by the almond milk panna cotta, served with honeycomb, flaked almonds and lemon curd so decided to go for that. I was slightly disappointed that it came in a bowl rather than standing up (not as fun and wobbly) and if you had a mouthful without any of the toppings it didn’t have much of a standout flavour. However in combination with the sharp lemon curd and berry flavours and the crunchy texture from the honeycomb and almonds it was a nice fresh dessert and I can see it working really well in summer.

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He had the chocolate & hazelnut brownie, served with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce – could you get a more perfect combination?! Brownie desserts are often way too sweet and artificial tasting but this one was brilliant. I loved the slight bitterness of the chocolate sauce, it made the dish feel like it was made with good quality chocolate rather than just being a sugar overload!

I’m so pleased Birmingham now has its very own Gusto, the team have done a great job and I look forward to many more visits in future. And also, before I finish, can we just mention how beautiful the toilets are!?

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Gusto is located at The Grand Hotel, Colmore Row, B3 2DA WEBSITE

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