As independent restaurants struggle to stay afloat in the current market, it’s good to hear of one city-centre venture that’s bucking the trend…
Gusto opened a couple of years ago in a Georgian-fronted building tucked away off the top of Fargate. And not only has it survived – becoming an award-winning Sheffield asset – it has just expanded, creating a new wine bar in the former Tourist Information Centre next door.
The move marks the restaurant’s second anniversary, and fulfils a long-held ambition for owner Saverio Bruno who’s a wine enthusiast.
“It’s just what we needed,” he says. “This is a small, family business but it has continued to do well and this gives us much more space.”
He’s less thrilled about the change of name – to VeroGusto (‘true taste’) – a move forced by strong-arm tactics from a similarly named chain. But customers have embraced the concept.
The new bar serves as a comfortable lounge for pre-dinner drinks and also welcomes anyone who simply wants a glass of wine or two.
There’s a choice of more than 150 Italian wines on offer, many available by the glass thanks to a high-tech preservation system.
The other recent change is the introduction of a new head chef, taking charge while Bruno’s partner, Ester, takes time off following the birth of daughter Vittoria.
It could have posed a problem, finding someone skilled enough to take over an award-winning kitchen. But the vacancy coincided with the closure of Moran’s restaurant in Abbeydale.
Chef patron Bryan Moran agreed to step in and has slipped seamlessly into the gap, ensuring standards are maintained until Ester is back at work.
“He’s very good,” says Bruno. “I’ve been so lucky that this happened at the right time. Ester told him what to do and it’s just as though he’s been here from the beginning.”
VeroGusto retains all its original charm, from the strikingly urbane ambience and jazzy, laid-back music, to the duck egg blue colour scheme and sparkling chandeliers – like fat, crystal-encrusted tyres.
It’s an oasis of sophistication amidst the bustle of Fargate, the shops and the nearby theatres.
I spent an unusually relaxed lunch hour becoming acquainted with the bar a few weeks back, but tonight we leave it to the wine buffs and head straight to our table.
The menu oozes Latin sophistication – and, it has to be admitted, prices to match.
Service is good, but I’m irritated by the lack of so much as a complimentary crust, never mind an appetiser; this is the city centre’s most exclusive restaurant, for heaven’s sake!
Butternut squash soup is unremarkable. But carpaccio of swordfish is skilfully executed, with a citrussy ginger tang and a delicate salad of rocket and coriander.
On to mains and orrecchiette pasta, with roast cherry tomatoes and aromatic basil pesto, is the definition of ‘simply’ delicious.
Roast rump of lamb is good too: sweet and succulent, complemented by well-seasoned cauliflower purée, roast potatoes and crisp-coated sweetbreads.
We share a dessert of lemon cheesecake: beautifully sweet and creamy, with a crumbly biscuit base. Good, strong americanos complete our meal.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £52.50.
* VeroGusto, 12 Norfolk Row, Sheffield (0114) 276 0004 VeroGusto