2 October 2014

Gusto Restaurant and Bar - Cookridge, Leeds

I was recently invited along for a meal at the gorgeous Gusto Restaurant in Cookridge, Leeds. After hearing glowing reviews of the place by trusted blogging buddies Sammie and Jess, I was very excited to be visiting myself and invited along my little brother to accompany me as he loves food more than anyone I know.
 
italian restaurant leeds
 
This charming Italian restaurant is based away from the city centre in the Leeds suburb of Cookridge. Gusto aim to bring the 'true taste and enjoyment of Italy' to their guests, aiming for an eating space that is modern and stylish but with the 'elegant charm of a classic Italian ristorante'. This particular restaurant is built around a 200 year old olive tree which, along with the windows, is draped with fairy lights to a really pretty effect. We were lucky enough to be situated next to this sparkling tree and I couldn't help feel the place was far too romantic and lovely looking to be there with my brother!

gusto leeds starters

For my starter I opted for the gnocchi, served with slow roast pork, cherry tomatoes and rocket. This, like any of the pasta dishes on the menu, is available as both a starter and a main course. The gnocchi was light and squidgy, and the pesto flavoursome but the real star of the dish was the absolutely delightful slow roast pork.  Pork is a bit of a new revalation to me as I thought for years that I didn't like it, and I'm so glad I let it back into my life. If all the pork I'd tried before tasted like this there'd have been no doubt to begin with. The whole dish worked perfectly together in terms of both flavour and size, and was a great start to the meal.

starters

Little bro decided on the sardine fillets wrapped in prosciutto ham for his starter. He's a big fan of sardines but has only ever had them from a tin before. In comparing the two he stated just how fresh the Gusto version tasted and love the fact that - unlike the tinned stuff - these haven't been sitting in oil or sauce in a tin for god knows how long, so the actual flavour of the sardine wasn't impinged by anything else. He also commented that unlike some other places where you get a bit of a salad garnish more for show than anything, everything on his plate (the bread the sardine was served on, the spiced tomato compote and rocket that were served alongside it) were all equally valuable components in the creation of a really well rounded and delicious meal.

pizza at gusto cookridge

Now, for my main I definitely wasn't planning on getting pizza. It just seemed not only a bit too obvious a choice in an Italian restaurant, but almost a waste of the opportunity to try some of the really exciting menu options available on Gusto's extensive list. But on my way past the pizza section of the menu I accidentally let my eye momentarily settle on the Peking Pizza and after that I couldn't settle on anything else! The pizza in question was topped with roast crispy duck, spring onion and cucumber on a hoisin base. The pizza itself was massive, with a generous amount of duck. It was quite a sweet affair due to the hoisin sauce, so maybe not one for everyone but I've never been put off by sweetness and I thought it was delicious - delicious enough to almost finish it all off (with a bit of help from my guest!)

italian steak

For his main, steak was more or less the only option he considered! Gusto offer a few steak options but he chose the flattened rump steak with an addition of his favourite red wine sauce. The steak was cooked with garlic and chilli and these flavours ran right through the flattened meat. The bite of this I stole was delicious and my brother was a very happy man, declaring this meal 'did exactly what it was supposed to'.
 
We added a couple of side dishes too: French beans with shallots that were as near perfect as French beans can be - cooked but crunchy, and tasty rosemary and garlic potatoes.

desserts at cookridge

Dessert was a tough choice due to some very tempting sounding puddings but I figured the chocolate mousse sounded like a relatively light option after all the food I'd already consumed. And light it was, though I don't think I quite anticipated the size of it! The fluffy mousse was served in a huge mug with a layer of deliciously gooey salted caramel between it and the cappuccino topping. My favourite bit, though, might have been the warm fresh little sugared dough balls on the side as the menu made no mention of them so they were a very pleasant surprise! Despite the volume of dessert it was everything I could do to stop myself licking out the cup when I'd done with it - delicious!

desserts cookridge gusto

He was most tempted by the sticky toffee pudding - never a bad choice to make and this was certainly no exception (yes, of course I nicked a taste!) It was served hot so you could really take advantage of that glorious hot-and-cold sensation when you get a bit of the pudding and ice cream together, and the sauce was rich and sweet.

great cocktail deals leeds
 
I'll admit that one of the reasons I invited my brother - as well as the fact that I love him, and that he really appreciates good food - is that he can drive which meant that for a change I could kick back and enjoy a couple of cocktails without worrying about getting myself or others home. The cocktail menu is almost as extensive as the food menu, but it made perfect sense to start with one of the 'gusto signatures'. The Sangria Rose appealed most - rose wine, elderflower liqueur, Cointreau, grenadine, fresh lemon juice and fresh fruit, served long and topped with lemonade - and didn't disappoint. It was fresh, fruity and a great meal accompaniment. On seeing my indecision with the menu the second time around, our waitress heartily recommended the Watermelon Martini (I think her exact words were something like 'I'd have it on a drip if I could'), and such a strong recommendation is not something to be ignored! This really did taste just like fresh watermelon!
 
Because there are so many lovely sounding drinks to try, I've got some good news for you - all cocktails are 2-4-1 between 5 and 7 every day at the moment! If that's not a great excuse to visit, I don't know what is!
 
And if you are nowhere near Cookridge, fear not! There's a number of other Gusto restaurants, details of which can be found here. I had a wonderful night, with amazing food and would definitely recommend this place to anyone with something to celebrate, someone to impress, or just a desire for really good food and drink!

* Meal provided free of charge in return for an honest review - enthusiasm all my own!

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