Now, I’m no Grace Dent. (@gracedent) The sassy woman is a legend in her own lunchtime. Quite literally. I wholly admit to being no huge full on foodie, preferring my staple diet of liquid lunches and quick canapés (after close inspection sans dairy).
However, I do know a good restaurant not only from the menu but from the vibe, being such a regular little past-it girl about ol’ London town. The pity is, I’m not in London (Read: KANSAS) anymore, Dorothy. It’s been a hike finding a) a decent hotel cocktail bar to frequent (NB. There is only one to my knowledge) and b) finding a barman who can actually mix a REAL martini (or a hard to find ‘twinkle’) and know their numerous dirties from their twists. Hutchesons win hands down on the latter with Blythswood Hotel following a close second. And that, my friends, would be it, I’m afraid. Trust me. I’ve put in the hours and done the research. It’s akin to finding a handsome without facial hair in this town.
It was inevitable that I’d be thrown off-balance with the arrival of the approachable yet mightily glam Gusto Glasgow. A beautiful grand affair that smacks of Gatsby without the piquant Daisy Buchanan attitude. Like all good restaurants, it used to be a bank so the grandiose feel is ever like a grand European cafe, with its ambience only added to by its £1.3 million makeover.
On arrival, the staff were pleasant and saw us through to the central bar to await our table. Immediately impressed by the service, it was the follow up attitude and can-do approach of the bar staff that had me thinking, ‘I may actually hang out here’. Cool and discreet enough to mingle an hour or so on a high stool, the tables are distant enough from the area not to encroach on either bar-fly or diner. The cocktail menu features flutes such as the strawberry & mint or pineapple bellini, catering to Glasgow’s sweet tooth, while martinis include a gin & thyme version as well as a redcurrant and lemon choice. I’ll stick to straight up with a twist, thanking you. But it was food that we were here to seek so, after a glass of house champagne, my guest and I were shown to a glamorous demi-circle leather booth that could easily hold four or more. “Are these tables popular?” I enquired. “Yes, the most,” was the reply.
The ever attentive staff didn’t flinch when I explained re my non-dairy diet or my guest’s wheat and gluten allergies. They even brought out the compendium folder of dishes which listed each and every ingredient. Gusto Glasgow seems prepared for the most obtuse of diners.
We ordered starters: tagliatelle and prawns with garlic for me and grana padano risotto for my guest, which she finished in record time declaring it pretty much perfect. The tagliatelle was cooked al dente with just the right amount of sauce, true Italian not swimming-in-it British style. In fact, it was so good, I wished I’d gone for this dish as a main. The beauty of Gusto Glasgow is that it offers many of the numerous salads, pastas and risottos as a starter or main. Doubles the customer’s choice immediately. Win.
The main courses arrived and we set to comparing dishes alongside the sides we’d ordered (fries, french beans & shallots, steamed spinach with sea salt). Mine’s was a roast fillet of cod wrapped in prosciutto ham while my guest ordered pan roast duck breast. While the cod was crispy and set well against the pea puree and slightly tart lemon oil, I felt there could have been slightly more of the sauce. A similar thought of my guest who thought her duck cooked perfectly pink to well but her only complaint was needing more star anise puree. Small niggles when the food was so on point.
To finish, my guest choose the flaming baked alaska which is already proving to be a restaurant favourite in terms of taste as well as theatrical spectacle at the table. As a non dairy freak, I don’t do desserts. Sorry folks. No can do.
The overall verdict: great restaurant, close to central station, sure fire hit and a staple on the burgeoning Glasgow bar/restaurant scene. It even has a welcome outside terrace. The biggest win was not only the food, but the service, the attitude and the gorgeous setting.
Gusto Glasgow has its VIP launch party tonight. (And yes…I am attending!).
Find out more about Gusto Glasgow here.