We’re very happy to have welcomed my Mum and sister ‘up North’ from the Isle of Wight. It’s not very often we see each other ao took the opportunity for a dinner together – without Dinky – to catch up on the comings and goings. Gusto, located on Newcastle’s Quayside, was the chosen venue. On my last Canny Food visit – nearly a year ago, it would appear – I chose vegetarian dishes. I was intrigued to know what the chefs would rustle up for me this time round with dairy and egg are ruled out of the equation.Gusto is a stylish restaurant and – as I’ve stated before – perfect for date night. It was incredibly busy when we arrived and there appeared to be a mix of couples, family parties and friends catching up amongst the clientele. I started off the evening by checking the wine list to see what I could order. This is one of the few restaurants I’ve visited that has a dedicated menu of those suitable for vegetarians and vegans on hand. It really saves the hassle of searching through long lists to find one, not to mention how rude it is to your dining companions.My sister went straight for the cocktails while my Mum chose a wine from the selection. I stuck to soft drinks in the end. We were able to chose our starters first to give us time to peruse the main course options. This was a lot harder for me as there isn’t clear labelling, but the allergen folder is available for those who want to scrutinize the ingredients. I ordered Hummus, which was served with crudites and a warm flatbread, while my Mum and sister chose for Chicken Liver Pate and the Garlic Dough Petals respectively for theirs.My starter was suitable with the Pesto removed. It is the sort of thing I sit eating at home on an evening while watching Masterchef. The flatbread was pillowy soft and the dip seemed fresh enough.My Mum’s only complaint was there wasn’t the right toast to pate ratio for her liking, so I offered some of my flatbread to help her finish it off. Mains were a more complicated affair for me, with many containing ingredients not suitable for vegans. I eventually settled on the Caprino Pizza, which was served without Goats Cheese, Mozzarella and Pesto. As the food is prepared fresh adaptations can be made for you.The thin base was generously topped with vegetables and was incredibly filling. I felt I needed something other than the bitter balsamic to dunk my crusts into, but this was a minor grumble. My Mum enjoyed her Slow Cooked Pork Belly, while Lucy gave a thumbs up for the Garganelli Primavera she chose for her main course. All the portions were generous and reasonably priced.By this point we were seriously flagging, but it’s amazing how people suddenly find space for dessert if they see something on the menu that tickles their taste buds!Mum’s Panna Cotta had the perfect wibble, Lucy enjoyed her Bombolini – mini-doughnuts served with a decadent chocolate sauce – while I had to settle for Lemon Sorbet. Regular readers know I feel this dessert option is a cop out in restaurants but I was pleasantly surprised at how refreshing this palate cleanser was after the preceding courses. Reminiscent of the lemon sherbet sweets I would buy as a child from the newsagents across the road, it was ever so slightly tart but sugary at the same time. The Gusto menu is a good mix of classic dishes that you will find in Italian eateries across the country and specialties such as Salt Baked Sea Bass. We sat and watched as someone was served this at the table opposite, chips of sea salt flying everywhere! For a chain it is an incredibly warm and friendly place to dine and it almost surprises me it is part of a bigger enterprise. The staff are attentive without being overbearing and knowledgeable on the options available. Those wanting a polished dining experience could definitely do a lot worse than heading for this Quayside stalwart.
Thanks for reading,