Should you start worrying about yourself when every trip you make involves the hope of a blogworthy meal, even if that is completely not the point of the trip at all? If so, I think maybe I need some help. On a recent non-blog-related trip to Sheffield, the news that we would be finishing off some rather serious evening activities with a trip to Italian restaurant Vero Gusto brought a big smile to my face, especially when I did a bit of reading about it.
Not only has it picked up several local awards, as well as a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, but the menu looked pretty darn good, packed with Italian classics. So, after the serious stuff was done (if you’re interested, I sat on a panel discussion all about journalists in danger at the Crucible Theatre, organised by Sheffield University), we headed off to enjoy what I hoped would be some authentic Italian food.
Vero Gusto’s an attractive restaurant, with a fairly small but classy, warmly-lit, frontage. Inside, there’s all the hustle and bustle of a popular restaurant, including the ‘ciaos and ‘signoras’ that you’d expect from an Italian trattoria rather than a Sheffield city centre eaterie. We were sat at a long table near the back of the restaurant with its low lighting (yes, sorry about the pictures) and impressive display of wine bottles, and brought some olives and flatbreads to tuck into while we chose from the menu. The breads were light and crisp, one topped with tomato, garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and the other (my favourite of the two) with garlic, olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.
I’m not a massive pasta fan to be honest. Mr M could eat it every night of the week, but the only times I tend to be tempted is in places like this where there’s an offering of decent pasta in interesting dishes. Then again, at Vero Gusto these pasta dishes come up against some rather strong competition, like pan-fried seabass served with salmon tartare, or prime fillet of venison served with chestnut cream, porcini mushroom ravioli, and truffle shavings. Not to mention the dry-aged beef fillet topped with Fiordilatte cheese and a sun-blushed tomato cream.
After much procrastinating, I was saved from the final decision by a newly-made friend who suggested we “go halves” on two main courses. What a bonus, and one of those offers that makes you think you may have met your food soulmate! So, while I ordered Anatra – pan-fried duck breast with mixed berries on a bed of wild mushrooms, shallots and watercress salad, she went for Ravioli Scampi – scampi-filled ravioli served with chopped prawns and a creamy orange sauce.
Yes, we did that classy thing of each eating half then swapping our plates over. And no, nobody batted an eyelid. In fact, you almost got the feeling that there was a subtle nod of approval from the waiting staff at our convivial sharing of food.
Of the two, I have to say I preferred the duck. Cooked nice and pink, with the tried and tested addition of the mixed berries, it hit the spot, while the wild mushrooms were still slightly meaty and the watercress nice and peppery. It came with some colourful fresh vegetables, including some crispy potatoes that I could easily have eaten about four portions of.
The pasta was a good-looking dish, each tender piece of ravioli packed with scampi. I loved the addition of chopped prawns in the sauce, but I just wasn’t a hundred per cent convinced by the sweetness of the orange. Perhaps it’s just my own taste, but I’m not sure a fruity sauce with pasta is for me. Others tried some of the pasta dishes and were complimentary, but not entirely blown away. Maybe it depends on what you choose.
We also enjoyed a side salad of Crescione d’acqua e Parmigiano, basically watercress with parmesan shavings that was dressed with truffle oil. For me, this was a real winner. The peppery rocket with the intense parmesan, topped with rich, earthy truffle oil. Simple, but beautifully-presented and great tasting.
Since we’d seen the impressive dessert cabinet, packed with all sorts of calorie-laden treats, on the way into the restaurant, none of us felt able to decline a quick look at the dessert menu. The dessert menu actually includes a digestif recommendation to go with each dessert, which I think is a nice addition, although just the sweet was enough for me.
I’m not sure whether it’s the atmosphere at Vero Gusto, or the people I was with, but by the time we got to dessert the spirit of sharing had spread through our table and four of us opted to shared Profiteroles as well as the “classic” tiramisu.
Good job really, as the dessert portions here are pretty generous. A huge glass of tiramisu would have been far too much for me on my own – rich cream piled on coffee-soaked sponge, with chocolate sauce smothered on top – while the profiteroles were huge balls of choux-filled cream, completely drowned in chocolate sauce. No complaints from anyone, and in fact, we couldn’t finish it all.
I’d definitely go back to Vero Gusto. I love the atmosphere there, and think it’s a great place to go with friends. For me, the meat and fish dishes sounded a bit more impressive than the pasta, and that feeling seemed to be proven by my duck/ravioli main course combo, though some may say that’s purely down to personal preference. Either way, I’d be more than up for going back and double-checking.
My dinner at Vero Gusto was paid for me by the people entertaining me but that was nothing to do with the restaurant, and they had no idea I was a blogger.