SINCE becoming an Eating Out correspondent I’ve taken a keen interest in new venues in the area, and frankly, there have been so many in Durham in recent months that it’s been hard to keep up.

Gussto, in Silver Street, is one that has been open for a few months now but I hadn’t had the chance to visit until a Saturday night in March.

The smallish venue, accessed via the vennel that leads to Back Silver Street, has been home to a number of different cafes in recent years, most recently Café Sisters

Despite being on one of Durham’s main commercial streets, it’s slightly tucked out of the way and isn’t as obvious as it could be. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t as busy as it could be because inside it’s delightful.

With strings of fairy lights adding a glow to the exposed brick work, the ambience is charming. The little corner we had to ourselves had a cellar-like feel (in a good way) – the perfect place for cosying up over some wine and food.

The menu is Mediterranean, with dishes hailing from the vast swathe of the area, with classic Spanish, French, Italian, Greek and Moroccan dishes on offer.

It's run by cousins Eduardo and Rodrigo, who are also the pair behind the nearby Tapas Factory in Elvet Bridge (a restaurant that got a big thumbs up from me in a previous Eating Out review), so I was excited to give their new venue a go.

The selection is fairly broad, with plenty of classic dishes and a few less usual choices.

To start, I had crispy squid (£6.95), which was served with a rather moreish aioli. It was well prepared and seasoning, with a smoked sea salt, was spot on. When squid is done well I always feel like I could eat plates and plates of it, and in this instance I think I could happily made a meal of it.

Carlo, my dining companion for the evening, started with some Morcilla (£5.95) off the specials board. It’s essentially a Spanish black pudding, so possibly not to everyone’s taste but served with a peppercorn sauce was deliciously flavoursome.

Moving on, I decided to keep things Spanish and had a seafood paella (£14.45). Served in a traditional paella pan, it certainly looked the part, and was generously laden with bounty from the sea. The rice was well studded with prawns, both peeled and full-bodied, mussels and plenty of chunks of fish.

For me paella is one of the ultimate eating experiences. I love the process of munching my way through a big bowl of food, tossed together, picking through the shells with my fingers, sucking the last remnants of sauce from the detritus.

It involves all the senses, forcing you to slow down and enjoy every morsel, bringing back memories of lingering meals on hot, sticky nights in Spain.

This was not a paella that I'll be dreaming of in years to come, but it wasn't a bad effort, though I did think it was slightly on the salty side.

I washed it down with a couple of glasses of perfectly acceptable Merlot (£5.50 for a large glass).

Carlo’s had some African inspiration for his next dish, choosing a Moroccan lamb shank tagine (£14.95)

Again, it was pretty good, if not outstanding. The lamb was as tender as you could hope for, easily falling off the bone, and the sauce was rich and fragrant with the fruits and spices that are the signature of Moroccan cooking.

After two very solid rounds of cooking, I did feel Gussto let itself down a little with the puddings. One of my big bug bears with many otherwise decent restaurants is a lack of interest in the final course and regretfully, I thought this applied to Gussto.

Both my amaretto torte and Carlo's tiramisu (both priced at £4.95) were so overladen with cream there was almost no difference in flavour between the two desserts and while they looked pretty enough, they were a little disappointing overall.


Gussto, Silver Street, Durham

Tel: 0191 384 0911


Open: Monday – Friday 12pm-10pm, Friday - Sunday 12pm-11pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food 7, Service 8, Surroundings 9, Value 7