A cold Winter’s Monday night, the start of the week and the Christmas lights are up in town. What better way to enjoy it then a mate date foodie frenzie? I’m talking a slap-up meal and glass of wine with good company. Gusto Manchester was our restaurant of choice and my mate date was Fiona from Greedy Sisters.
Gusto has quite a few restaurants across the UK with a number of them in Greater Manchester. We opted for a city-centre mate date at their Deansgate (Lloyd Street) branch. And I’m so glad we did, as we got to enjoy the Manchester Christmas lights, getting us in the mood for all the festive twinkliness that was waiting for us inside Gusto Manchester. How pretty!
Gusto Manchester is a sophisticated but approachable affair. It’s in a gorgeous building and the restaurant fit-out is chic and comfortable. There’s a fab bar in the middle of the restaurant, where my mate date awaited my arrival. Walking in, I was surprised at just how buzzing it was for a Monday night – apparently Monday is the new Thursday…or something like that.
We were shown to our booth table. I do love a good booth, so we were happy and excitedly jumped straight on to the menus.
I’ve eaten at a Gusto restaurant before and although full of Italian crowd-pleasing dishes, I also love that the menu changes seasonally. I timed our visit well, as their new Autumn/Winter menu has launched with full force. There were some seriously inviting and hearty dishes on there, including a Lamb Cacciatore and Oven Baked Fillet of Cod wrapped in Tuscan Ham with Spiced Pepperoni Lentils. Mmmm…how to choose, how to choose…
If you read this blog, you’ll know my love for pasta, so clearly I couldn’t avoid choosing a pasta dish for my main. But for starters, I wanted something warming and smooth and so chose the Creamed Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Shallots, Chilli Oil and Baked Rosemary Focaccia.
I’m not even a lover of cauliflower, but this was incredibly delicious. It was the perfect thick smoothness that a wintery soup should be, the shallots added a nice bite to the texture and the hint of chilli gave a pleasant heat. I got my carb fix with the still-warm focaccia, which was the perfect vessel to get the soup into my face!
My mate date opted for a salad (boo!) but I have to admit I was pretty impressed and slightly envious of the portion size. It was a Roasted Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Pomegranate. Very seasonal, full of colour and vibrancy and very tasty!
Now, I should mention here, that I was washing my food down with a surprisingly discovered glass of Sauvignon Blanc…from Slovenia! Sauvignon Blanc, Furmint, Gomila. I didn’t even know Slovenia produced wine! So be sure to check out the impressive wine-list and I’d highly recommend this as a perfectly balanced tipple for your Italian meal. My mate date enjoyed a glass of Riocca (always a winner).
Onto our mains. Obviously I went for pasta and opted for the Gargagnelli Primavera with Winter Vegetables, Pine Nuts and Italian Cheese (and I added Chicken to mine too). It comes packed full of seasonal veg (green beans, carrot ribbons and broad beans) and is served in a light but luxurious creamy sauce and I chose to top with shavings of Parmesan. My perfect dish!
My mate date went for the decadent dish of Lobster and Prawn Spaghetti in a light Chilli and Tomato Sauce as recommended by our lovely waiter. I obviously stuck my fork straight in and the sweet lobster meat (which there’s a good serving of), perfectly compliments the sauce and fresh pasta.
Because I can never resist it when I see it on the menu, we also ordered Italian Fried Courgettes to have on the side. Perfectly “fritti” and shoe-string, these are just as I like them, served in a light crispy batter, perfectly seasoned and too easy to chomp your way through.
You’d probably think that we were getting full by now? And we were, but we had strategically saved just enough room for dessert. There is a good selection of desserts to choose from too. Luckily, my fellow foodie Fiona (that’s got a ring to it) was totally up for ordering two different desserts and sharing them (phew…food choosing anxiety was starting to build). So after a bit of deliberating, we went for the two that promised to be warm, chocolatey, with a hint of Italy – the Bombolini (homemade mini doughnuts, chantilly cream and chocolate sauce) and the Nutella and Mascarpone Calzone (served with Vanilla ice-cream).
Well they went down an absolute treat! Just the right level of stodginess, but surprisingly light, the bombolini were warm, sweet and perfectly sized. But the calzone was an absolute winner for me and goes down on my list of favourite desserts. The dough is light and cripsy, which I wasn’t expecting and it was packed full of hazlenut-chocolatey goodness. I easily could have eaten the whole thing to myself…but had to share (must remember for next time).
So there we have it, our Winter’s mate date indulgent Monday night at Gusto Manchester. Two and a half hours of foodie bliss and we both left comfortably full and thinking about our next excuse for a mate date and when we can plan a visit back to Gusto.
Have you been to any of the Gusto restaurants? Where should we head for our next mate date? Tweet or Instagram me your suggestions with #matedate and we may just head there next!