If you travel to Southampton by train a lot, as I do, you may know about Gusto Lounge. Or Buon Gusto as it was known a few years back — when we last reviewed it, at any rate!
Since it changed names, I’ve never been tempted to revisit. Not until our former columnist and frequent guest diner Connor Mackay suggested it as the venue for our next review. I couldn’t say “no”.
The layout of the restaurant was quirky to say the least. There is no word in the English language for the shape of the restaurant floor. Furthermore, it was not entirely clear at a glance which areas are for customers and for staff.
Being a restaurant manager himself by occupation, Connor was dismayed by how dirty and dusty the restaurant was. I established there is a fine line between shabby chic and lack of TLC. With several instances of chipped wall and cracked paintwork, we agreed Gusto Lounge falls into the latter category. Not to mention the amount of cables and wires lining the walls. I felt in danger of getting plugged into the mains, or at the very least, electrocuted.
To further twist the knife, mine and Connor’s visit had been rather ill-timed. Turns out the menu was changing the day after our visit, so the current selection was limited. That is to say, pretty much everything interesting on the outgoing menu was unavailable.
I remember being utterly spoilt for choice when we reviewed this place as Buon Gusto. This was a stark difference and a major disappointment. But given it was Sunday, Connor and I decided to divert from the à la carte menu and go for a Sunday Roast. That of a Lamb Shank to be more precise.
Now this is where the restaurant redeemed itself. To start with, that’s not a bad portion for something in the £14 region, is it? I had to criticise to myself the serving of a Yorkshire Pudding with lamb. That’s down to my reluctance to deviate from tradition, mind you. It was still very nice.
Much as the entire dish was delicious as a whole, Connor and I agreed upon singling out two elements for particular commendation.
Firstly, the Cauliflower Cheese that arrived amid the mass of vegetables. It was more of a white sauce in terms of flavour and consistency than cheesy. But that scores major points with me. Given there was gravy as well, I felt the two sauces complemented one another beautifully.
Then there was the lamb itself. If the lamb meat literally falls off the bone, they’ve done it correctly. Here we had a prime example. It was divine. Full of pure flavour and succulence. There is nothing more to say.
A mixed bag of a dining experience when you weigh it up. First-class quality food served in a sub-standard setting. The service wasn’t atrocious, but was only as good as it felt it had to be. While it wouldn’t be the first restaurant I’d recommend visiting in Southampton, I certainly wouldn’t deter anyone from trying it out. Connor and I said we would like to see how it fares with its new menu. Maybe they might impress across the board?