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Restaurant review - Gusto, Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool

PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 July 2018

Roast chicken breast with creamed leeks, tomato and caper dressing with fried gnocchi

Roast chicken breast with creamed leeks, tomato and caper dressing with fried gnocchi

not Archant

It’s summer, so let’s eat out on the riviera...the Mersey riviera, that is

White crab, chilli and garlic spaghetti, with fresh lemonWhite crab, chilli and garlic spaghetti, with fresh lemon

It’s a sunny evening, the Royal Albert Dock is looking lovely (and newly ‘royal’), and there is a large cruise ship tied up just down the waterfront. Liverpool has scrubbed up rather well these past few decades, don’t you think?

We’re here to sample the new summer menu of a familiar restaurant name, Gusto, whose Mediterranean-style offer now extends to 19 restaurants, mainly in the cities and more well-heeled suburbs of the north.

The location surely gives this Gusto an edge over many of its sister restaurants. Exposed brickwork reminds you at every turn of this building’s history, more dramatically yet when you stand in the cavernous, pillared centre of the restaurant and gaze out over the famous Albert Dock to Tate Liverpool.

It’s only a Wednesday night, but Gusto is packed. A large party of conference-going gastroenterologists have chosen to dine here, it seems. Now there’s a recommendation for a restaurant!

Though the centre of the dining area is a wide-open buzzy kind of room, there are quieter and more intimate alcoves off to the side, one of which is where we find ourselves, sipping a very acceptable negroni and nibbling on chili salt edamame beans (£3.50) and dough petals with garlic butter (£4.75) while surveying the menu.

That menu is a cunningly comprehensive collection of Italian crowd-pleasers: pizza, pasta, risotto, steaks, fish dishes, salads, deli boards. You could come back a dozen times and eat something different every time. I kick off with that most reliable Italian staple, meatballs in tomato sauce (£6.75), and get exactly what I hoped for, the sauce rich and basily, the meatballs topped with a puddle of molten cheese. Across the table, a Romesco chicken salad (£7.25) proves a lovely combination, with mild goats’ cheese, peppery rocket and a sweet balsamic glaze.

My main is a seared lemon and pepper tuna steak (£18.95). Actually, it’s two rather hefty chunks of tuna, very lightly cooked but boldly flavoured, atop a mound of soya beans, green beans, cherry tomatoes and black olives. A side order of tenderstem broccoli with feisty little fronds of red chili and pine kernels (£3.75) is as tasty as it is pretty.

Our other main of white crab chilli and garlic spaghetti (£17.25) is like the seaside on a plate - and lots of it! A side of perfectly baked rosemary and garlic potatoes (£3.75) packs a real flavour punch.

I choose Gusto tiramisu (£6.50) to finish, mainly for the menu’s claim that it is ‘home made to our secret recipe’. And very nice it is too, but whatever that secret may be, I suspect many other Italian restaurants the world over are in on it.

A post-prandial stroll takes us to the waterfront, where the statue of Billy Fury is decked with flowers, the lights of that cruise ship twinkle on the water and the pinkish light of the dying sun makes all that dockside architecture yet more characterful. Yes, Liverpool is pretty fab, these days.

Gusto, Edward Pavilion, Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AF. Tel 0151 708 6969, gustorestaurants.uk.com

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