I feel kinda bad writing a review on somewhere I really didn’t have high hopes for, and pretty much expected to be average. I’d love to say I was proven completely wrong and it was fabulous, but it lived right up to expectations.
The Edinburgh branch of Gusto, which is a small-ish chain of Italian restaurants, sits very much at home on George Street among the many other soulless restaurant and bar chains.
The interior is nice enough; they’ve succeeded in making quite a cavernous space feel relatively cosy and there’s a nice buzzy atmosphere. The menu has standard offerings of pastas and pizzas, with some seafood and meat mains that indicate they’re trying to elevate themselves above your bog standard pizzeria.
Starters were calamari and beef carpaccio. The calamari was lovely and crisp and thankfully not of rubber-band texture, but bizarrely lacked any flavour whatsoever. Dipping in the accompanying lemon mayonnaise only made it taste of bad commercial mayonnaise. Beef carpaccio was much better, though the meat was drowned out rather than complemented by the ubiquitous rocket, grana pandano and truffle oil.
A shared garlic pizza makes me now wish I had played it safe and had pizza for main course, as this indicated it might have been pretty good. But I didn’t, I had a steak. Now, I’ll lay my cards on the table and say that I’m a hard girl to please when it comes to steak. The meat, the cooking, and the seasoning all have to be impeccable so, having such low expectations of Gusto, I really only have myself to blame.
I’m fairly certain the 28 day aged 10oz rib-eye was a decent piece of meat before it was cooked. But then something bad happened to it. I can’t be sure of all the gory details but it probably involved chargrilling over gas and maybe burnt/old oil on the grill. Whatever, it resulted in a steak that was medium-rare as requested, but which had an unbelievably bitterly flavoured exterior that lingered well after the meat was swallowed. Chips weren't great. Asparagus out of season - pointless.
A whole salt baked sea bass fared much better, kept succulent by its salt crust coat, though accompanying rosemary and garlic roast potatoes were undercooked and greasy.
We had dessert - “Bombolini” - mini doughnuts with chocolate sauce and cream, and a nutella and marscarpone calzone. Neither were really worth writing home, or here, about.
OK, so Gusto wasn’t awful (putting the steak aside) but it was decidedly average. Of course the George Street crowd will ensure Gusto is packed to the rafters every Friday & Saturday night, but I won’t be back to join them.