Outside tables at Gusto’s Liverpool outlet are at a premium during waterfront celebrations around the Albert Dock – as are those near the window. With its elegant vaulted-brick arches, cast-iron pillars and catch-all Italian menu (plenty of pizzas and pasta, salads and classic mains, alongside brunches and bar snacks), the venue is understandably popular. Couples take seats at the inviting bar, while family groups cluster around large tables.
Cold smoked salmon arrives with intriguingly spiced avocado, alongside a tangy red pepper purée and capers. To follow, flattened rump steak is 28-day aged, and sprinkled with sea salt, pepper and chilli flakes. It is served, waiters explain sternly, either well done or medium rare; the extreme thinness of the steak rules out finer gradations of cooking. A side of steamed spinach with sea salt offsets the meat beautifully.
Elsewhere on the menu, things take a more elegant turn with whole salt-baked sea bream, infused with fennel and orange and served with samphire and ratte potatoes, or honey-glazed duck with balsamic vinegar and cavolo nero, although it’s not all so posh.
Sourdough pizzas range from a simple classic margherita to a fancy-pants ‘fico’ with nduja and San Marzano tomatoes, while pasta covers all the favourites of king prawn tagliatelle, three-meat lasagne, and spaghetti bolognese or carbonara. Burgers, meanwhile, come in beef and vegan options and veggie options are decent overall, from a pastry parcel containing your five-a-day to rigatoni primavera or a superfood plate of spelt orzotto.
To drink, an Italian-led wine list has familiar grape varieties with good choice around the £20 mark (including half a dozen Proseccos) or there is Peroni and Modelo beer by the bottle. For a postprandial treat, diners stroll out on to the lovely dock once more, which is just the time to investigate the lengthy cocktail menu. And, if you’re still hungry, there are bar snacks of meatballs and ‘dough petals’ with a variety of toppings, to soak up the booze.