Olive Bar and Restaurant formerly known as Olive Press will always hold a special place in my heart – it’s where my team took me out for a welcome lunch when I started in the company I currently work for back in 2011. This might sound really silly but I associate places with memories I cherish and Olive plays a small but crucial part in this particular memory. I haven’t been back to Olive since this visit back in 2011 so I was really excited when Seb suggested we try out Olive Bar and Restaurant last week.
It’s also been the talk of town recently with Tim Bacon of Living Venture fame taking over Olive Press from celebrity chef Paul Heathcote. They plan on converting this space into one of its Gusto Italian restaurants. The Gusto offering is not new to Living Ventures but this Lloyd Street venue will be its first branch in Manchester and they plan on extending this restaurant into Elliot House as well which fronts Deansgate, expanding this space from 3,500 sq. ft to 8,500 sq. ft. So watch this space!
We rocked up at around 7 pm straight after work and with the change in seasons, it was still nice and bright. Don’t you just love summer?
The first thing you see as you walk in is the bar area with the restaurant situated behind this space. The interiors are very elegant – it’s understated chic simplicity. The simple wooden chairs and tables with spot lights highlighting nooks and crannies works really well here. The restaurant also boasts an open kitchen which faces the dining area so you can see your food being prepared, which is a really nice touch.
Our waitress greeted us at the bar and seated us at a table facing the open kitchen. I loved watching the chefs cook away, perfecting their creations before sending it out – it’s such an interesting environment to get lost in. We ordered a few drinks (which were delightful) as we browsed the extensive menu.
We decided to start with a Deli Board which is served with Focaccia and Pickled Vegetables. We filled our Deli board with Salami Ventriciana, Proscuitto and other Italian cured ham and we also there in some cheese in there for good measure.
We were absolutely starving at this point so this went down a treat and you can’t really go wrong with cured meats and cheese can you? I was clearly loving it.
We also ordered some Gusto Dough Petals with Garlic Butter. When I saw this on the menu, I was really excited but the dish was a let down when it arrived It was a bit too eggy for my liking and the garlic butter tasted slightly odd. Really good concept but the execution wasn’t up to scratch.
The menu here is really extensive but after a lot of deliberation I went for the Roast fillet of Cod wrapped in Tuscan Ham with Crushed Peas, Lemon and Caper Oil. It looked just as amazing as it sounds!
Unfortunately, it didn’t taste as nice as it looked. Top marks for presentation but the cod and the crushed peas were too dry, I would have loved a little more of that delicately flavoured sauce as well. For £15, you would expect better.
Seb ordered the Rigatoni Primavera with Butternut Squash, Celeriac, Carrot, Cabbage, Green Beans, Pine Nuts, Cream and Chicken. I thought this dish was really nice – creamy, the vegetables were crunchy and the chicken was moist. But Seb thought it lacked flavour. So the jury is out on this dish.
We were absolutely stuffed at this point but we decided to share a small dessert between us. We ordered the Chocolate Mousse with Salted Caramel and Cappuccino Cream. I found it too rich and the salted caramel overpowered the other flavours of the dessert.
Our waitress was lovely and the service was efficient. She bought us our bill which we cleared and decided to call it a day.
So what’s my verdict on Olive? I think this place works for a quick lunch or dinner, the overall experience is nice. But if you want something more than ordinary, I would give it a miss and wait till the the newly refurbished and rebranded Gusto opens here in August. £70 for two including drinks isn’t exactly light on your wallet either. Olive can definitely do with some Tim Bacon magic right now. If you want ‘proper’ Italian food, this is not the place for it. Such a shame, because I really wanted this place to be good. But like I said earlier, sometimes restaurants are special to you, not because of the food but for the memories you cherish and Olive will always be special to me.