It may have been a dull and dreary day weather-wise but the mood inside Gusto restaurant was warm and decidedly sunny.
This modern light and airy Italian restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows has a prime location on Newcastle quayside. And our table on the upper floor in a cosy booth offered glimpses of the iconic Millennium Bridge, BALTIC contemporary art gallery and the silver-curved roof of The Sage, Gateshead.
It was a good and very civilised start to lunchtime proceedings one Sunday as I sipped a strawberry and mint bellini, £7.50, and my daughter a strawberry kiss mocktail, £4.50, a refreshing mix of summer fruits, crushed ice and banana, as we perused the menu.
There’s a touch of glam about dining at Gusto – from the drop lights, wall of black and white framed photos, and olive trees wrapped in twinkly fairy lights forming a sparkly backdrop to lunch.
We decided to choose from the new Sunday lunch menu, available all day, offering two courses for £16.95, and three courses for £19.95.
My starter of bruschetta of smoked haddock and leek with accompaniment of soft poached egg (with perfectly cooked runny yolk) was delicious. The haddock had just the right smoky kick, the soft leeks an excellent foil for the two slices of toasty bread. A minor niggle, but the dish could have been slightly warmer.
My daughter’s choice of spring pea and mint soup with dollop of lemon crème fraiche was also a good one. It was full of zingy flavour, with a vibrant green colour to match, almost like someone had put a filter on it! And the accompanying wedge of fresh focaccia
was ideal for dipping. She opted for crispy baked pancetta pieces in the soup, £1 extra, although she did say these could have been crisped up a little more as they were a touch on the fatty side.
Both dishes were attractively presented and looked appetising. Smartly-turned-out staff were switched on, knowledgeable about the menu, and super-attentive, which is always good to see. We never felt rushed and lunch was a supremely relaxed affair – the jazzy, bluesy background music setting just the right tone.
From a choice of five mains, my grilled sirloin of beef, neatly sliced up into manageable chunks, with sweet glazed baby carrots and roast potatoes, was just what I was craving. I’d done a Body Combat class that morning so was in need of sustenance. Our server poured a mini jug of red wine jus all over the meat and veg with a flourish! Every element of the dish was well cooked and so tasty – the meat was succulent, the jus rich and flavoursome, and the roast potatoes crisp on the outside and meltingly soft in the middle.
My companion’s eyes lit up when she spotted her main of sea bass swim into view… It smelled divine and tasted equally as good. Two slim but meaty fillets of delicate fish served on a bed of crispy fennel, interspersed with sweet orange segments and thyme, with accompanying herby Parmentier potatoes. The mix of flavours worked well – the liquorice-like fennel and orange morsels jazzing up the delicate flaky fish.
After a much-needed rest, we turned our attention to desserts – and these were especially good. I opted for a warmed raspberry and almond frangipane cake with raspberry coulis dressing. It was exquisite – the subtle almond flavour and jammy base were sublime, and although it was more fairy cake than tart, was light and fresh.
My daughter’s sweet tooth was well catered for with banoffee pie meanwhile… the biscuit crumb base the perfect contrast for the creamy banana creation. Trust me, this is a good one – and will be my dessert of choice next time. We finished off with coffee with a cream float, £2.50, and a pot of Earl Grey tea, £2.35.
It was a shame the non-stop rain prevented us from enjoying our drinks on the inviting terrace, which looked smartly kept and attractively lit, but there’s always next time.
Gusto, The Quayside, Newcastle NE1 3DX. Tel: 0191 260 2291 http://gustorestaurants.uk.com/restaurant/newcastle/