Han Eats @ Gusto

Birmingham’s central Colmore Business District is booming, and not just with business. The neighbourhood has become a haven for the city’s new go-to drinking and dining destinations, particularly with the recent renovation of the beautiful Grand Hotel (although still no hotel currently signed up…) and 200 Degrees, The Alchemist and Gusto settling in on this beautiful row.

Gusto Birmingham is the 16th of its kind from the Living Ventures group, who’ve also brought along its sister bar, The Alchemist, to sit next door.

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The interior (and exterior for that matter) is reminiscent of bourgeois Paris, and a little like Christmas – this Birmingham opening is actually a modernisation of the classic Gusto influence and design seen here in Manchester.

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On my first dining visit to Gusto, I arrived in the bar to meet fellow bloggers for the very first time: Winepressgirl, Good Gone Gone Brum, Positive Friday’s (+ Edd!) and Hoot Hospitality.

As my first time meeting other #brumbloggers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the evening. I was pleasantly pleased it was a fairly small group (perhaps due to the fact there was another event happening at Grand Central’s Tapas Revolution with its founder Omar Allibhoy himself? Jealous much? A bit). However I was very happy to be there.

So, into the swing of things I got. In the bar area we enjoyed an array of beautifully colourful cocktails made and aptly displayed for bloggers by the lovely Morgan (all captioned below), partnered with my fave apero-partners in crime, sun dried tomatoes and olives (and lots, and lots, of photo opportunities).

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[From left]: Kiwi Margarita, Raspberry and Rosemary Sling, Honey Rose, Elderflower Negroni, Grape Crush & Passionate Fizz
I’m no cocktail expert, unlike GGGB in the blogging party, but I can tell Gusto’s are pretty good. My personal fave was this pretty Passionate Fizz.

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Moving through to the dining room, we met Lindsay, who informed us we’d be choosing from the early dining menu (previously pre-theatre) – 2 courses for £19.95 including a spritz cocktail, available between 5-7pm daily.

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Lovely touch to add a little blogger package including menus and pretty promo cards.
We were started with wine – I was driving so only had small amount but Montepulciano and a Slovenian Sauvignon Blanc/furmint blend were enjoyed around the table.

On the early dining menu, there’s then a choice of three bruschetta to start. Luckily I had sharing pals and ended up with the full trio – just the trick 👌🏻.

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1. Tomato and basil – toms were quite garlicky but I wasn’t complaining – classic Italian flavours after all.

2. Smoked salmon, marscapone and chives, with LOADS of salmon

3. Smoked duck, caramelised chicory and ginger – the tastiest in my opinion 👌🏻

Main course choices on the early evening menu are varied but the usual favourites. I went for a lighter main than usual (largely due to the fact I’d had risotto & pasta the day before visiting an Italian restaurant… think, Hannah, think.) So smoked duck salad it was.

Other choices around the table were the peking roast duck & the goats cheese pizza varieties (yes you read correctly, a duck pizza), along with thrice the sea bass. It will be a little while until I brave the fish option again after my disappointment at The Punchbowl. Nobody went for the three pasta options or the burger on offer.

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A tasty salad, mixed leaves with rocket throwing some flavour in there and some tasty smoked duck on top, something I’ve never tried.
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Sea bass: a strong favourite around the table, delish crispy and flaky fish I was told
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Peking pizza: goooood, a good soft and stretchy dough (as I was informed)
I was happy with my light option; I also happen to really love fruit in a savoury salad so the orange went down particularly well. In hindsight, or had my stomach been up to it, I would have gone for pasta or the Peking pizza after I tasted a slice of the goats cheese pizza – this tasty slice topped me up just nicely. Wasn’t entirely sure if there was loads of goats cheese as I prefer so unfortunately can’t compare it to my fave Pizza Express Padana variety 😍.

Besides, had to leave room for the chocolate fondue sharers to finish – two large platters of the stuff. Captions below:

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[from bottom left]: strawberries, shortbread biscuits, a jug of Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur), chocolate brownie, maraschino cherries, mini doughnuts, all to dip in the little tin pot of melting chocolate.
Sharing dishes are always a winner in my eyes, and with lots of picky bits to dip, even better. Halfway through we realised we were supposed to mix the Frangelico with the chocolate to make a ‘Nutella’ – this actually just left it tasting very strongly of of alcohol. I’d personally stick to the chocolate version if I ordered this again.

All in all, Gusto is a lovely place to dine. Imagining the cathedral is Notre Dame (if you excuse the No 9 bus to Stourbridge in front), you could almost imagine yourself in Paris, Rome, even my beloved Lyon. The interior decor, ambience and furnishings are all relaxed, elegant and not overstated. It’s just a really nice place to frequent, relax and enjoy. Oh, and the service is also a dream.

However, following this experience, I do feel in terms of food, the a la carte menu offers lots more dining potential than the early dining menu choices. I’d go for this next time.

Gusto Birmingham’s a great destination for #datenight or a catch up in a small group, but in my opinion, especially to enjoy an after-work £4.95 cocktail (from a never-ending menu) between 5-7pm.

(If Birmingham’s a bit too far for other West Midlands readers, you’ll also find a new Gusto in the lovely Regent’s Court development in Leamington Spa – maybe with more lunch-dinner potential?)

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Gusto

Colmore Row, Birmingham OR Unit 2, Regent’s Court, Leamington Spa.

Tweets: @gustobirmingham / @gustoleamington

Insta: @gustorestaurants

 

Disclosure: I was invited to try the early evening menu by the team at Gusto Birmingham. This was my first ‘blogger’ invite, with complimentary food and drink. 

My first experience with other bloggers – it’s a whole new world out there. I do want to meet new people, enjoy food and new places together, like any other friends, so it’s safe to say I’m just sussing it out. I will however, not become a freebie review machine.  I like writing, I like food, I’m really enjoying Birmingham and the Midlands, so I whacked it all together on here.

However, this is the first.. will not be the last.. but hopefully not the first of too many PR occasions… There’s way too much else out there for that.

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