The Mission: To enjoy a meal – any meal – out of the home with a toddler.
The more fabulous the meal the better, but toddler hassle-reducing factors at the restaurant are also key. It’s a tough ask.
The Restaurant: Gusto Didsbury. Refurbed and serving an extensive but uncomplicated Italian/Mediterranean menu. It has been in the heart of the village since 2006 and has recently undergone a major refurb. Elegantly designed and lit, it stands out from the smart, mid-range crowd. But how does it fare with a toddler in tow?
The Toddler Trials:
Making an entrance… We manoeuvred the pram to the table with no problems at all. Given the glamorous environs, you might think this would be a recipe for table bashing and numerous prosecco spillages.
Table talk… This was a big stand out feature for us. We were lucky enough to get a big leather banquette booth to ourselves and was that a winner. It was sort of like being in our own soft play area... We also had a highchair which the bab sat in at intervals. Distractions… There were colouring sheets and crayons, which were helpful (at 18 months she is still a little young for them but they provided some initial excitement), and a very successful bowl of complimentary cucumber and carrots. Gusto taught us that our daughter can eat raw carrots.
Kids Menu… Lots of great dishes to choose from, and they will create kids’ versions of the adult menu too. We ordered some garlic dough petals (from the main nibbles menu - £4.75) straight away, so she had something to be going on with. She then had some of my partner Mark’s hummus and flat bread, followed by a Kids Spaghetti Bolognese (£6.95 for two courses) so between the initial nibbles and the bits she stole from us, the Bab was basically on a running buffet.
Staff… Lovely team, who all made a fuss of her, another thing we all liked.
Other bits and bobs… There weren’t any plastic bowls or cups or anything like that, so you need to bring your own if you need those. I’m embarrassed to say that we had forgotten the baby bag, and so were bereft of any toys, cup, bib, nappies etc, My fault,if I’m honest. Testament to the restaurant that we had such a great time under these amateurish circumstances.
Toilets… Due to the lack of baby bag we didn’t use the baby change. But I believe there is one situated in the accessible toilet on the ground floor.
Top Tip… Ask for a big booth – and tell them the whole restaurant will thank them. And when your kids are a little older book them in for one of Gusto’s half-term ‘build your own burger’, ‘make your own pizza’ activities (below).
The food…Mark’s uncharacteristic ordering of the house hummus and flat bread (£5.95) turned up a surprising star turn – a big fresh, vibrant dip with pillowy soft handmade bread, sometimes that is just what you all want. He chose the Gusto Burger (£13.95) to follow, which was one of the best he’s had in a while. Juicy and well stacked but not so tall that it needed a knife and fork.
My handrolled meatballs (£6.75) were a splendid starter, and followed by a pan fried fillet of sea bass (£18.95) – theoretically to balance out the decadence of those luxurious meatballs served with a rich, earthy tomato sauce, cheese and toasted bread. The fish was cooked skin on and crispy on top with a delicate, moist flesh beneath and all sat atop lots of creamed spinach. It was especially fine served with a side of rosemary roast potatoes (£3.75). Very good.
We then shared a dreamy warm chocolate and hazelnut brownie with pistachio ice cream (£6.50) and Daphne had a lovely, retro Mini Milk ice lolly.
The verdict: Great, grown up food in stylish surroundings that somehow managed to be toddler-friendly. This is one to have up your sleeve for a family lunch – big or small.
Bab About Town Score: 7.5/10.
Gusto Restaurant and Bar, 756 Wilmslow Rd, Manchester M20 2DW. 0161 445 8209.