Gusto unapologetically wears its heart on its sleave, and whilst occasionally it may miss a beat, clearly the best interests of the diner are always foremost in its intentions. Chef Simon Roe, formerly of Icebergs, Bistro Fax and Number 1 Aldwich in Covent Garden London brings a strong pedigree to this slick suburban Café Restaurant located in Penshurst whilst sensibly delivering a menu that satisfies the diverse local demographic who patronise this seductive red eatery.
Without acoustic panels, tonight by 8pm the noise is noticeable without ever being overly intrusive, which does make for a quintessentially vibrant Trattoria so I can forgive the odd dish being late when the food is not compromised and delivered at such astonishingly favourable price points. Things start well with a fettuccine boscaiola that is cooked perfectly al dente and coated with just enough cream to ensure the often fundamental error made with this dish is not repeated here. Next is the orichette with broccoli, garlic and the most subtle of chilli notes to add resonance. The pasta at Gusto is made in house which texturally shines in both dishes as does the seasoning which is judged to perfection.
The kitchen is making steady progress through the sea of dockets as the Sicilian pizza of fior di late, anchovies, olives, capers and oregano arrives. It is made in traditional Naples style from Italian flour, light in texture and cooked for one minute at very high temperature in a stone based oven. This is followed by the Italian sausage pizza with kipflers which on this occasion did benefit from some additional seasoning. The salt crusted rib eye is kept refreshingly simple and is served with just rocket, kipflers and a lemon which proves a jus is not essential providing good produce is well executed and rested correctly. This also holds true with the char-grilled lamb rack with hot fetta, olive vinaigrette and green beans and the time Chef Simon Roe spent on the grill under Karen Martini is very evident in both dishes.
Desserts are sourced externally, but particular care is taken by ebullient floor manager Aidan Roe with the extractions of the Toby’s Woolloomooloo blend. The fundamental elements are in place for better with a small but interesting wine list recently introduced and more appropriate staffing levels for the very unpredictable local market that largely do not book and tend to eat around the same time. I think with some minor refinements Gusto can reach beyond its strong local reputation and receive wider recognition.
23 The Strand, Penshurst
Wednesday to Friday 12-3, Tuesday to Sunday 5pm till late & Sat & Sun Breakfast
Licensed / BYO (corkage applies)