Restaurant Review: The Olive Tree at The Queensberry, Bath in Somerset
The glorious city of Bath has history, shops and sights at every turn, practically smacking you in the face with it’s culture. It also happens to be inundated with delightful eateries ready to offer you a wonderful experience, and the exquisite 3AA Rosette-holding The Olive Tree is one of them.
Situated in The Queensberry Hotel and headed up by Chris Cleghorn since 2013, the restaurant offers super seasonal and very locally acquired British cuisine. Cleghorn draws from experience as sous chef at the 2 Michelin Starred Gidleigh Park with Michael Caines, where he spent three years before heading to The Fat Duck in Bray. With experience like this my guest, Nick, and I were very keen to head over one Saturday evening in January to try his delights for ourselves.
We took a seat in the hotel’s bar and, with a gin and tonic in hand, cast our eyes over the tantalising and varied menus. There are three tasting menus – seasonal (£65 plus wines at £40) and signature (£78 plus £55 for wines) and vegetarian (£55 plus £40 for wines), if you prefer not to have the full menu you can choose two or three courses for your meal at varying prices. There’s also a lunch, Sunday lunch, cheese and special menus such as Valentine’s Day. We were kindly offered both signature and seasonal tasting menus for our dinner, one each – a great idea for us pair of foodies – so that we could appreciate more of the cuisine. We were also offered the wine flight for both so we were rather excited to get started!
Situated in the basement, the restaurant is decorated in a modern style with wood floors and matching table tops, mid grey/blue soft coloured walls, occasional splashes of lime green, and artwork in black frames. Dark green/blue leather chairs and upbeat music set the scene for our comfortable, enjoyable evening feasting on sumptuous sampling of edible delights. Seated in our alcove on a booth, in the same rich colour of leather seat, we were brought some delicious little appetisers of a delicate, fluffy, mallowy parmesan and sage foam with a gentle cheese flavour as well as some squid ink crackers with salmon mousse and fish eggs. Both were flavoursome with a good mix of textures and were lovely to eat.
Some hot, crusty bread rolls were warming and helped us out with our next courses of pumpkin soup with sage and chilled Bosworth goat’s cheese and a crab lasagne with basil. The textured crab was surrounded by a sweet, colourful bisque, while the hot pumpkin soup was complemented perfectly by the cold cheese, nutty pumpkin seeds and a glass of Montagny 1er cru.
Duck liver, poached and roasted orange, chicory and walnuts was my next course, while Nick has pheasant, sweetcorn, Iberico ham and popcorn. I loved the walnut crust on the foie gras and the fruity elements, which uplifted the rich dish but I’m just not keen on a chunky piece of foie gras, though Nick happily swapped as he loves it. My wine from Alsace was delicious and ideal for all elements on my plate. The pheasant dish had unusual ingredient pairings but was lovely. The brazen saltiness of the popcorn and ham (shredded and in a crispy bon bon) opposed the sweetcorn, which uplifted the pheasant. So far there had been a really good standard of food and the service is unfaultable.
I didn’t know fish could be so crispy until I came across my next course of brill, pan fried, cauliflower, shitake and dashi broth. My mouth waters thinking of this now, my taste buds were truly tickled – the salty broth, warmer flavours and oh-so crisp fish made this my favourite course of the night. The wine was great with it too and consisted of a South African white with 3 blends including Chenin Blanc. Nick’s fish course was sea bass, pan fried, mussels, red pepper and courgette and came with a crisp and acidic Japanese Chardonnay. The fish was moist, textureful with the deep, fruity flavour of the pepper balancing the fish and mussels well.
My main course of venison, loin, beetroot, hazelnut, grelot was a colourful dish jam packed with flavour and colour. Served pink, the meat was of excellent quality and little textures such as the nuts, beautifully fragrant onions (who doesn’t love the smell of cooked onion?!) and smooth purée made this a winner for me. The only gripe was the purée, I am a lover of beetroot but this was very strong in flavour and I just couldn’t eat it all. Nick’s beef, BBQ, sirloin, yeasted mash, shallot and nasturtium was a rich dish with crispy, moreish shallots, rich and creamy mash and sumptuous beef (if rather fatty) and came with a lip-licking glass of Rioja.
I had a few more courses on my Signature tasting menu so I pushed on while Nick relaxed – we were both quite full by this point! Roquefort, muscat grape sorbet and celery arrived and admittedly, though I like an awful lot of foods, I am not a fan of Roquefort or celery, though the sorbet was deliciously fruity. I then tucked into lemon curd, blueberry sorbet and sable, which was a lovely palate cleanser with sharp, sweet and refreshing elements.
We visited dessert heaven for our final course and it’s like they were personally designed for us. Nick tucked into peanut butter parfait, milk chocolate and salted caramel, which was like a deconstructed Snickers bar. It was rich, thick, smooth and creamy with chunky peanuts dotted about – he loved it.
Served on a large silver ringed platter like Nick’s, my 70% Valrhona chocolate, mandarin mousse and granite and stem ginger arrived looking very simple as just a dark chocolate ball. I enjoyed cracking the crisp shell to find the remaining ingredients inside. With a gentle richness, smooth, fruity, delicate and tasty elements, this was the closet dessert I have had to a Jaffa Cake and I was thrilled.
We were well and truly done for (think Augustus Gloop getting stuck in the tube at Willy Wonka’s factory and you’ll get the picture) but so pleased with the creativity and excellent skill shown on each plate. Nick declared his favourite course to be his last, while I couldn’t betray my beautiful brill, with my chocolate delight coming a very close second.
In a nutshell
Expect a great supply of ingredients on well thought out and perfectly executed dishes. The tasting menus are well balanced and the wines are chosen with care. The staff made the evening run as smoothly as possible and I would recommend The Olive Tree for a visit any day.
Address: The Queensberry Hotel, 4-7 Russel St, Bath BA1 2QF / 01225 447928