March 13th, 2012

Olive Restaurant Review By Manchester Confidential

Jonathan Schofield likes his eggs and his meringue on an accidental review

Written by Jonathan Schofield. Published yesterday morning at 11:48 AM

Olive Restaurant Review By Manchester Confidential

ACCIDENTAL reviews are good.

As a writer you traipse in for a lunch expecting nothing much except good company and then hey presto! the food joins the party too.

You didn't eat the meringue, you mined it. You drilled though layers of egg white spun with sugar, to dripping toffee caverns and banana sub strata.

This happened in Olive on Lloyd Street in Manchester last week. On an awkward site, it was an awkward idea when it first opened, a classic piece of Italian inspired fluff. It was all right. That was about it.

But last week things were different.

I couldn't fault any of the dishes we ate including deep fried calamari with lemon mayonnaise (£5.95), roasted hake with salsa verde, potato and egg (£12.95) and an Italian burger in a focaccia bun with mozzarella and pesto (£11.50).

I certainly couldn't fault the Ridiculous Meringue Of Overwhelming Desire (£5.95) - that's my name for it by the way.

On a middling half full lunch hour in Olive Press the wholehearted food showed deft handing, apt seasoning and simple straightforward virtues. It was not so much a surprise as just good.

The hake dish was given distintion by those lengthways quartered boiled eggs, all garrumphed in oil and herbs, with spuds and toms. Slapped on the tines of a fork with the fish flesh too, this was a joy. Slippery, moist flavours and textures were the keynote. It felt healthy, felt like my skin was getting treated properly, like in one of those ads for skin products that mention 'essential oils'.

The calamari fried with crisp light batter and dunked in the lemon mayonnaise were a great accompaniment to the hake - although perhaps not so good for my skin. The calamari appear on the menu as a starter but I wanted them as a side for the main course, and it worked a treat, boosting the combination of flavours and adding a nice crunch.

The burger was coo-ed over by the fellow diner. The springy, soft-centred, mince was firm on the outside and jingled and jangled with a decent pesto, a basil leaf and mozzarella topping. The ramekin of hot little sauce was welcome.

As the picture shows we swapped the fries for salad and this was a model of fresh, crunchy greens with onions and tomatoes.

Then it was the Ridiculous Meringue Of Overwhelming Desire (£5.95). This was a monster of a meringue kicked into life with toffee, banana, and cream so thick you could walk on it with snowshoes, or even tennis racquets tied to your brogues or heels.

You didn't eat this meringue, you mined it. You drilled though layers of egg white spun with sugar, to dripping toffee caverns and banana sub strata.

Meringues are part of my past. My gran made meringues so good, young lads would leave off football games in the park and go sprinting down Sandy Lane for them. Along with knickerbocker glories and trifles, they stand before my eyes, like an intense dream of childhood happiness.

Unlike the meringues the wine range at Olive is more or less mundane, reds and whites by numbers, but have prices to match from £12.95 up to the mid-twenties. If you are driven mad by meringue mania you could buy a bottle of Amarone 2002 at £40, which delivers full-on quality. 

Matthew Pritchard is the head chef at Olive . For a middling restaurant aimed at a middling market he's achieved really strong work here.

He shows that chains such as Olive (and Piccolino off Albert Square) can lift themselves up high and produce food that can be quality yet reasonably priced.

What Olive isn't, I suppose, is an Italian restaurant. It's an Italian-inspired British restaurant. And as Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli keep wanting to tell me, not all Italian inspired restaurants need be square pichetti in round buci.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


Olive, 4 Lloyd Street, City, M2 5AB. 0871 704 0657 

Rating: 14/20
Food: 7.5/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3/5

Tags: Manchester, Manchester Confidential, Review
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Enjoy the real taste of Italy at Olive and sample the warm and rustic, cosy surroundings that help provide an Italian restaurant experience everyone will enjoy.
At each Olive restaurant, our chefs use the freshest ingredients to create popular Italian favourites and exciting innovative dishes for you to discover.

Authentic dishes from the char grill and brick fired oven are our speciality, while the finest handmade pastas and stonebaked pizzas are always popular at Olive and ensure this restaurant is an Italian experience you won’t forget.