In the heart of Southampton’s independent dining quarter you will find The Olive Tree restaurant. The restaurant is well established in the area and has sat on this charming street for over 20 years. A predominantly French inspired restaurant, the restaurant has a bistro style feel and an exciting, eclectic menu.
The a la carte menu is geared around flexibility and offers small dishes with the option of traditional sized portions too. We sampled the lunch menu and found portion sizes to be more than reasonable! The wine menu was also fantastic, with prices reasonable and the breadth of choice quite impressive for an independent restaurant. For those looking for something a little more exotic, there is also the choice of house blended cocktails and we saw many champagne corks being popped too.
We visited of a lunch time and we were pleasantly surprised to see the restaurant buzzing with diners in groups both big and small. With the restaurant perfectly placed to catch the mid-afternoon sun, we can see why it is such a popular spot and we may just have to revisit in Spring to enjoy the space in all its glory. Service is warm, friendly and relaxed. The Olive Tree is certainly a restaurant to visit if you wish to feel laid back and at home, we felt comfortable from the first second to the last.
A strong start…
To begin the meal, I went for one of the restaurant’s specials, a take on pork belly chicharrón with a delightful and zingy French gribiche sauce. Chicharrón, a dish hailing from the Andalucía region of Spain, are delightful lightly fried pieces of fork belly. The gribiche is the perfect companion to such chicharrón, as the capers and cucumber perfectly cut through the fat of the pork for a well-balanced dish. In this one dish you get a glimpse of how the Olive Tree attempts to cherry pick influences from France in the gribiche and embellish them with influences from further afield. This dish had the potential to be heavy, but the sauce gave lightness to the dish and the overall flavour was spot on.
Other highlights from the starters include more bistro favourites, such as white anchovies, fried calamari and charcuterie to share for only £14. The menu certainly evoked memories of trips to France, Spain and Italy; with the menu having a sense of tradition and simplicity you would expect to find in the regions themselves.
Great flavours and classic combinations
One of my favourite fish has to be plaice and therefore, it is no surprise, this what I went for. The menu offers whole plaice, shrimps, samphire, lemon & caper butter. All of this can be had for only £18.50 and it was simply delicious. The classic pairing of samphire and caper butter here worked well with the tender plaice. All of the elements worked together and were cooked perfectly, this was wonderful dish and an example of the restaurant leaning towards a fine dining bistro.
My partner opted for the pan-roasted chicken Caesar, anchovies, parmesan & sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes burst with flavour against the chicken and the dressing for an authentic taste of the Mediterranean. Once again, the flavour combinations were bang on. The chicken was close to perfection here, but there was a slight oiliness about the dish which left a little bit of an after taste. So close to being a great dish.
The menu also offers Foie gras, pancetta wrapped prawns, seafood linguine and crayfish too, so there really is a wealth of choices to select from.
Plenty for those with a sweet tooth
The lunch menu also had a strong selection of deserts to select from and they are sure to tease most people’s taste buds. For example, vanilla creme brûlée, cinnamon poached pears and stem ginger cheesecake are all on offer. Unfortunately, following the great mains and starters we were left too full to squeeze any deserts in, but others around us seemed to be enjoying them
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