Regular readers of this blog will have some idea of my loves by now: good cocktails and bare-faced cheek being highly-ranked among them. Last week the opportunity presented itself to combine the two, when I whatever-the-Twitter-equivalent-of-eavesdropped-is on some blogger friends of mine talking about an upcoming cocktail night to be hosted by Glasgow’s newest Italian restaurant, Gusto. Some back-chat later, an invite was on its way to me.
The date actually clashed with a pre-planned dinner date with my best (platonic) boy Neil-bear, but Gusto were undeterred – bring him along too, they said, and if you fancy ditching your plans and staying for dinner we’ll give you a wee discount off your food bill. They’re just that nice over there. Never one to refuse a cocktail challenge (Neil-bear and I once drank our way through another Glasgow establishment’s entire cocktail menu in one night), the pair of us swiftly rearranged our plans.
I was actually the first to arrive (if you’ve been following me elsewhere you may know that I had a bad fall that day, but since gin cures all ills I took a taxi from home) and was shown into a function room at the back of the restaurant where they had set out a dozen or so of their most popular cocktails on wooden boards next to piles of the premium ingredients that go into them (like fresh fruits, chocolate, nuts and – in the case of the Desert Peach – a bottle of red wine). We were given some poker chips we could exchange at the bar for drinks of our choice from Gusto’s extensive menu (PDF), and told a little about the training the restaurant’s bar staff get. At Gusto they free-pour the spirits that go into their cocktails, judging by eye and weight – which makes the bar staff far more entertaining to watch than if they were decanting spirits into shots.
Now, we weren’t there just for a free bar and a jolly. Thursday last week was the launch of the Gusto Cocktail Club, allowing you to order just about anything from the menu for half-price all day Thursday to Sunday. Now, it’s true that Gusto’s cocktail prices are at the higher end of the Glasgow drinks scale (although they’re competitively priced given the class of restaurant – like I said, I know my cocktails), but it’s still a clever twist on the usual mid-week early-doors happy hours. The promotion pitches Gusto as the place to get your weekend started, rather than simply a place to eat, and I would be very surprised if it wasn’t a roaring success.
After a couple of drinks we couldn’t wait any longer to try the delicious-looking food that kept getting carried past us, and we were shown to a roomy booth along the side of the restaurant. Gusto is far more than a pizza and pasta place – its current menu has a heavy Neapolitan influence, with lots of seafood dishes – but on a Thursday night when you’ve already got a couple of drinks in you it’s hard to say no to the old favourites. I had a Diavola pizza, with pepperoni and lots of fresh chillies, while Neil-bear opted for The Griffin: roast chicken, pepperoni, green chilli and roasted red onion. The pizzas are good-sized, packed with fresh toppings (hence the knife and fork for the squidgy middle bits – I know it’s hardly post-pub scran rules) and with the fluffiest, most perfect stone-fired crusts; served on wooden platters with your own pizza cutter. Any concerns I had about being able to eat a whole one on my own had vanished by the end of the second slice.
— Lis Ferla (@lastyearsgirl_) July 30, 2015
Now, I know people can be cynical about restaurant reviews on blogs and quite rightly so, particularly given the amount I had to drink that night. So this is probably a good point to tell you that I enjoyed the food so much that I went again on Saturday night and this time took my mum. As well as great food, tasty drinks and lovely ambience Gusto also has an outdoor terrace providing one of the few places in Glasgow where my mum can have a glass of wine with her cigarette without violating any bans on drinking in the street. She loved the place as much as I did, especially since they let us split a pizza and incredible spaghetti arrabbiata between us.
Which is also why I can vouch for so many of the desserts, especially the bombelini: tiny fried doughnuts served with chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream. Although I suspect nobody reading this would judge or, indeed, be surprised had I ordered two desserts in the one visit.
I’d say don’t let the cheery wee face in the above picture fool you as the gingerbread hot chocolate I ordered at the end of Thursday’s meal was the only thing I was disappointed with on either visit: I’m pretty sure the whipped cream came from a can, and the gingerbread syrup wasn’t as good an idea as I thought it was going to be. But, honestly, by that time of night I was needing something not to be perfect so I wouldn’t come across as a total shill by the time I came to write about the place.
Much like Grill on the Corner (another favourite of mine) Gusto offers a membership card, allowing you to book in advance and get a discount off your food at certain times. I had signed up before I was even out of the door on my first visit, because there’s not a doubt in my mind that I will be back – maybe even this weekend for more cocktails and cheek. You should too: I promise you won’t regret it.
DISCLAIMER: I was invited to sample Gusto’s cocktail menu and given a discount off my food bill, but I was under no obligation to write anything nice about the restaurant – or, indeed, write anything at all! See my full disclosure policy.