Gusti, but without gusto

YEAH, BABY YEAH! One felt like shouting Austin Powers' anthem of approbation from the rooftops. How marvellous to find a wine list where every wine is also offered by the glass. A wine list that says emphatically, ‘we care about what the customer wants, not what is convenient to us’.

Most restaurants in Perth grudgingly serve wines by the glass and almost never serve

the better wines in single portions (with the exception of 44 King Street and its brilliant argon gas-driven stoppering and pouring

system). The wine list at Gusti won’t win prizes, but it’s a good, relevant list, catering to contemporary café dining tastes and with a few top-flight wines thrown in to keep the interest. But what makes this list so

shagadelic is that everything – even the $70.00 Chardonnay and $90.00 Shiraz –

are available by the glass.

Although Gusti had its formal launch just four weeks ago, it has been open and

operating for several months. It is called a restaurant. In execution, it's a casual, laid

back café with restaurant prices.

Gusti – inside the foyer of the Park Royal Hotel – is nice enough. However, both food and service are delivered with a ennui that leaves one wondering whether anyone really cares. The food plates up well enough, yet fails in the eating. The service is cheerful, yet there's a palpable this-is-the-job-I-do-while-I-go-to-uni feel about it. The staff are so laid back they’re almost horizontal.

There seems also to be a lack of direction at front of house. Surely, setting up the chafing dishes and buffet hardware for the following morning’s breakfast service could have waited until the evening service had

concluded. The constant traipsing backwards and forwards by staff laden with the buffet set-up was hardly conducive to the dining experience.

The room is cute, perky and blonde – lots of pale timber veneers, timber chairs and striped banquettes. It looks like an in-store café at Country Road. On the night we dined, this rather simple, lovely room had been cut in half by a mobile partition that would have been at home sectioning off work stations at the Australian Taxation Office. It was an inexplicably ugly thing to do to such a sleek space, especially when one considers that the Swan River views (surely one of Gusti's attractions) were obliterated by the ill-placed partitioning.

The menu reads well. Two oyster variations came natural and smoked. There were eight entrées including the soup of the day, eight main selections, four side dishes including salad and vegetables, two bread selections, five puddings and a cheese board.

An entrée of Coffin Bay scallop ravioli, pesto, goats cheese and tomato salsa ($15.00) was such a departure from the accepted norms of ravioli that it should have been accompanied by an explanation from

the waiting staff when ordered. This way the diner would have at least been given the courtesy of making an informed choice. Pity my disappointed dining companion, who expected something at least vaguely akin to ravioli and instead was served three large, pan-fried pasta parcels. It’s laudable when chefs push the envelope and strive for new interpretations of traditional fare. It's important, though, that they let the customer in on the secret.

The ravioli were blanched and then pan-fried crisp, brown and chewy. Perhaps chef was trying to imitate the perogi, a fried pasta parcel indigenous to the Balkans. Whatever his inspiration, the dish failed. The stuffing was bland and indistinct. The pasta was hard. The salsa, though, was terrific – aromatic and with a perfect balance of tomato, onion and the slightest zing of chili.

Another entrée, Moreton Bay bugs, aubergine and ginger in crispy pastry ($14.00), came to table looking a million bucks. Centred on a large white plate, the cricket ball-sized parcel was wrapped with what looked like wonton skins or some other form of very thin, crisped pastry. Inside was a mushy, bland, indistinct mass of grey-green aubergine flesh and morsels of bug meat so overpowered as to be virtually tasteless. The promised ginger flavours were dealt out clumsily with uncooked juliennes of the rhizome clustered together at one end of the parcel, delivering the coup de grâce to an already dying palate.

By comparison, a main course of Amelia Park lamb rack, kumera mash, baby leeks and pepperberry jus ($23.00) was a corker. As you would expect from the carefully reared, milk-fed Amelia Park product, the lamb was tender, flavoursome and exquisite. The bed of brilliant orange-coloured mash was whipped light and was rich with flavour. The strips of leek were quickly seared and added balance and texture to the dish. The meat was cooked perfectly medium-rare as ordered, or so it seemed. As my companion sliced each chop from the rack, they became progressively more well done until the third and fourth chops were grey, dry and stringy. This is a level of carelessness that beggars belief. It’s virtually impossible to cook a small four chop rack rare at one end and overdone – just eight centimetres away – at the other. My companion’s disappointment was heartfelt. The dish had begun so well, only to be completely let down by sloppy cooking. The table next to ours sent their rack back to the kitchen for a similar reason.

The fish dish, a whole barramundi with mango jam and red coconut curry sauce ($22.50) was overdone. The farmed, plate-size barra does not boast anywhere near the flavour of its cousins in the wild. This is not the restaurant’s fault. Most consumers would be aware of the disparity in flavour and texture between the two, and would expect to pay much more for the genuine article. River-caught barramundi from the top end is, after all, one of the world’s best eating fish. The farmed variety is delightful, if well cooked.

The Gusti version was simply cooked and placed on a bed of rice with a red curry sauce to spice it up. The flesh was tired and leathery from over-cooking.

We had a brulée for dessert. Not much to say there.

Gusti is a disappointment. Its chef has an eye for presentation and flavour combinations which indicate he is thoughtful and innovative about the bistro food his restaurant plates up. But where the rubber meets the road – on the plate in front of the diner – his food fails. In fact, it’s so brazenly careless, one almost feels insulted.

Great room, relaxed feel, fantastic by-the-glass wine list, good looking menu. All Gusti needs are the kitchen skills to match.

Add your comment

BNIQ sponsored byECU School of Business and Law


6th-Australian Institute of Management WA20,000
7th-Murdoch University16,584
8th-South Regional TAFE10,549
9th-Central Regional TAFE10,000
10th-The University of Notre Dame Australia6,708
47 tertiary education & training providers ranked by total number of students in WA

Number of Employees

BNiQ Disclaimer