SO many shiny new restaurants are opening in Leeds these days.
Many of them are launched with huge parties and a big song and dance, but barely make a name for themselves before well and truly slipping off the radar.
With well-established names already on the Leeds dining scene, it can often be difficult to compete.
With places like Bibi’s, Jamie’s Italian and San Carlo already leading the way, is there really room for another Italian eatery?
There are so many things to get right and if you let even one little thing slip, it could signal the end.
So when we heard Italian restaurant Gusto was opening in Leeds city centre, we were somewhat pessimistic.
That being said, Gusto has already earned somewhat of a following at their Cookridge branch,
And they’ve certainly chosen a prime spot for their latest venture.
Greek Street is fast becoming one of the places to be, with The Alchemist soon to open their second Leeds site there and the boutique Dakota Hotel opening nearby in a couple of years.
Walking down the street to Gusto, there is certainly the sense that something big is in the pipeline for the area, with building work and new bars dotted along the length of the road.
Going up the steep steps to the restaurant, we are greeted by a friendly waiter who shows us to our table.
There are a few full tables, which seems about right for this time on a Sunday afternoon.
After giving our drink order, we peruse the menu. There are several different versions, including a la carte, specials and lunch menus.
We go for their main menu, which offers a great choice of dishes.
Starters range from hand-rolled meatballs to tiger prawns, with prices starting at £2.95 for some olives or £7.95 for the mussels.
I go for the Gusto dough petals with garlic butter for £3.50.
The dough is rolled into tasty-looking petal shapes and it’s a surprisingly generous portion for the price.
Each one is packed with flavour without the garlic being too overpowering.
My dining companion goes for the warm asparagus with a creamed truffle dressing, rocket and Grana Padano cheese, at £5.95.
Despite my partner being slightly fussy and asking for lettuce instead of rocket, this was accommodated without a fuss and the starter went down a treat, with just the right amount of dressing to complement the asparagus.
Both plates were presented particularly well and were a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
The starters came out so quickly that we barely had time to admire the decor.
The site has had an impressive overhaul since its former life as Henry’s bar.
The decor has a modern, art deco feel, and the windows that run along the length of the restaurant and over-look Greek Street add some much-needed light.
The marble tables are paired with leather chairs, and there are also booth areas for larger parties and a quieter bar area for those just wanting a drink or cocktail.
My dining companion says it has a New York-feel, and he can almost imagine the Rat Pack sitting in the corner.
For the main course, I go for the roast fillet of cod wrapped in prosciutto ham, served with pea purée and lemon oil, priced at £15.25.
It’s just one of the fish options available, with others including whole, salt-baked seabass, seared tuna steak in balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and pan-fried salmon fillet.
The fish is incredibly fresh and falls apart at the lightest touch, whilst the tender ham adds a salty kick.
It was a well-balanced dish and the flavours were spot-on.
My dining companion goes for the rigatoni primavera at £9.75, with summer vegetables, pine nuts, crème fraîche and Grana Padano.
Most of the pasta and risotto options (all 16 of them) can be served as smaller, starter-sized plates at around half the price, and gluten and wheat-free pasta is also available.
The pasta is cooked to perfection with the crème fraîche adding a little lift to the dish.
The menu also offers 12 different pizzas from a very reasonable £7.95 for a margherita to £12.95 for the ‘carnivore’.
There’s also a great choice of salads, steak and meat, from pan-roasted duck breast and roast lamb rump to the ‘Gusto burger’.
We also order a side of baked rosemary and garlic potatoes for £3.45 and steamed spinach with sea salt for £3.75 which prove to be the perfect accompaniments.
With the quality of the food surprising us both at this new city centre eatery, we are eager to try a dessert.
We are tempted by the homemade mini doughnuts and ‘Baked Flaming Alaska’ but decide to share a warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce for £5.95.
The brownie is the perfect temperature, with the ice cream slightly melting on top.
It’s an excellent end to the meal. With such swanky surroundings, you’d imagine a hefty price tag, but with two glasses of wine, a soft drink and a cappuccino, the bill comes to a very reasonable £66.70.
Sometimes with new restaurants it’s a case of style over substance.
But luckily at Gusto they offer both, and have just raised the bar once more for any newbies hoping to join the ranks.
Address: 10 Greek Street, Leeds. LS1 5RU
Phone:0113 200 5920
Opening times: Monday to Sunday from 12pm - 12am (kitchen closes at 11pm).