Thankfully, I’m now over my phase of running towards Indian restaurants on warm, sunny days. It did serve its purpose, though, as I did very much enjoy our visits to the Dhabba and the Spice Pavilion. But I digress.
Today, I headed for Broughton Street for lunch with my friend, Gerry. We chose the Olive Branch Bistro, on the corner of Broughton Place. I’d previously visited their little café/sandwich shop, next door, many months ago.
The place was busy with al fresco diners, but there was plenty of space inside, so we had our choice of tables. This proved rather handy, as the first spot we chose was incredibly warm, due the sun blazing in the large windows. We eventually settled in another window seat, but pulled down the blinds a little, to make things more bearable.
We were quickly brought menus, and as we caught up on pressing matters of state, I took in the simply appointed surroundings. There is a strong emphasis on brown and green, which I suppose is fitting given the restaurant’s name. The exposed brick wall works quite nicely, too. There’s a sense that some assured thought has gone in to the design and décor.
From the menu, I chose to follow my soup with the bouillabaisse. Gerry opted for the bread with pesto and olive oil, to start, then followed with the pasta of the day, which was tagliatelle putanesca.
Dishes arrived promptly, with the amount of bread for Gerry’s starter rather more suited to sharing with the table than as an individual starter portion. The bread was fresh, and the excellent pesto was possibly the standout item of the whole lunch.
My soup was very thick and hearty, with good flavour and a nice kick of chilli to offset the sweetness of orange. It was good stuff.
Main courses, which quickly followed, were of similar good quality. The pasta was fresh and light, and Gerry was pleased with it. My bouillabaisse was good, with a nice selection of mussels, squid, king prawns and fish fillet, all well cooked. The rouille had good garlic creaminess, but the tomato sauce was a trifle characterless. It was a good, accurately prepared dish, but lacked star quality.
Overall, the Olive Branch Bistro delivers a consistent level of quality, but it lacks something to elevate things beyond that. I have no problem with places keeping things simple and focussing on getting things right, rather than over-stretching themselves and going up in flames, but that can sometimes be a really hard trick to pull off without seeming too conservative. An injection of confidence or imagination or pizzazz or whatever that missing element is could have this place producing dishes that sparkle. For now, it’s slightly too safe a bet for my tastes.
Blythe scores the Olive Branch Bistro
3.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
3.5/5 for service
giving an overall 14/20
Today’s questers were: Gerry, Blythe
We ate: bread selection with olive oil and pesto, sweet potato, orange and chilli soup, bouillabaisse, tagliatelle putanesca
We drank: water, cola drink
We wore: stylish black, crumpled blue
Total bill: £36.36