As a village dweller, for the last 17 years a trip to any big city is always a treat.
My favourite, by far, is Leeds. I find the people more friendly than any other place in Yorkshire, and love its vibrancy, culture and what appears like constant expansion.
It is on a brass monkeys Tuesday morning that my friend and I get the train into West Yorkshire with three things on our mind - shopping, food and drink.
Before we headed out for some retail therapy we needed sustenance and battled through the throngs of Christmas shoppers towards Greek Street and the delight that is Gusto.
The outside of the restaurant belies the beauty that is held within.
On stepping in from the cold we were greeted by friendly maitre d’, Karl, who confirmed our reservation and seated us in a great spot to gaze at the world going by outside whilst checking out the work of the chefs in the open plan kitchen.
It was a fairly busy lunchtime with both office workers and festive party-goers enjoying the wonderful ambience, described in its literature as ‘like walking into an F Scott Fitzgerald novel’, with a room decked out in twinkly fairy lights shimmering off a backdrop of copper and bronze, dark wood, parquet flooring, plush leather booths and mirrors, giving it an air of sophistication.
I was already impressed, but the menu was something else. First up was our wine choice. The list was mainly Italian focussed but as my dining partner has a penchant for red we opted for a Chilean number, a Cabernet Sauvignon Villa Montes, from the Colchagua Valley renowned for producing excellent reds. It was medium bodied with a lingering finish. A truly wonderful wine, priced at £23 per bottle.
Our waitress for the afternoon was Lara who must be given mention as she talked us through each part of the menu with an impressive knowledge. Throughout the meal she was attentive without being overbearing and we both felt at great ease in her company.
But enough of that, on to the matter in hand, food.
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The dishes are unmistakably Italian at heart and while the menu features all the traditional classics, there’s also an abundance of contemporary dishes.
I went straight for the selection on the lunchtime menu, served between noon and 5pm. On offer are two courses for £12.95 and three for £14.95.
With a choice of five starters I opted for the minestrone of winter vegetables, which came dressed with extra virgin oil and freshly baked focaccia. On a bitterly cold day this was just what I needed to help thaw me out.
The soup was piping hot and came in a warm bowl, cold crockery is a no-no for me. The serving was enough to satisfy without being overly filling, plenty of chunky root vegetables, extremely tasty and complemented wonderfully with the bread that almost melted in the mouth. My friend’s choices came from the a la carte menu and she went for the creamed garlic mushrooms with a sprinkling of crispy shallots, served with chargrilled artisan bread, priced at £5.75. She said they were full of flavour and cooked to perfection, and, along with the bread, was just the right portion size to lead her onto her main.
For this she had roast chicken breast with creamed leeks, and a tomato and caper dressing with fried gnocchi at £14.95, served with a separate portion of Italian fried courgettes at £3.60.
Her description was ‘lovely’, the meat was cooked well and the potato gnocchi very tasty. For me it was the spaghetti with sundried tomato, pesto and green beans finished with fresh rocket leaves and shaved Grana Padano. For an extra £1 this also came with chicken.
It was simply delicious. Beautifully cooked pasta with a slight bite and a fabulous array of flavours to the sauce. I wish I could have eaten it all but I just could not manage the full plate. This has absolutely no reflection on the quality.
And last up came the dessert, a zingy palate cleansing lemon sorbet for me which was the perfect end to my meal. My dining partner selected the warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie served with pistachio ice cream and Biscoff sauce at £6.50 - again she said a perfect portion size which just melted in the mouth.
This truly was a fantastic dining experience. Everything about this place pleased us and with a total bill cost of £68 it was an afternoon that did not break the bank and left us extremely satisfied.
Gusto will most definitely be getting a return visit and a recommendation to family and friends. But all good things must come to an end so we wrapped ourselves up and braved the elements once more, disappearing off into the bustling city centre crowds as darkness drew in.
Address: 10 Greek St, Leeds LS1 5RU
Opening times: Sun-Thurs noon-10pm, Fri & Sat noon-11pm
Telephone: 0113 200 5920