First off, I am not normally a convert to Greek food. In fact in the past I confess I had been put off by teenage memories from Zante of ‘Greek’ food! That said the Olive Tree in Chapel Allerton is a fabulous independent restaurant chain in Leeds that really puts a focus on fresh flavoursome food.
This focus on getting the basics right means that even the most novice Greek food diners can either dip their toe in or dive in at the deep end.
On previous occasions visiting this restaurant, I had enjoyed a variety of Mezes (the equivalent to a family meal including starter and main course) which had been perhaps a bit more ‘Greek’ than I had intended it to be but had certainly given me a good grounding of what to expect on the menu.
As a result of this when looking for an interesting option for a two course Sunday Lunch I knew what sort of dishes to go for.
With my wife a big fan of Greek dips, our group enjoyed a trio of standard dips as well as a melintzanosalata, which is an aubergine dip that offers something a bit different.
I, on the other hand, went for a far less healthy(!) but big, bold flavour dish by choosing kotopitakia, which is a filo pastry with chicken in a similar style (though certainly not flavour) to a spring roll. It had a beautiful texture in contrast to the sweet, soft filling.
In all honesty, my only negative about the starters was the fact that all of us were feeling a little worse for wear after a heavy night of drinking the evening before at the fabulous Harrogate fireworks. As a result of this it was a shame we were unable to enjoy a nice glass of wine with the starters!
Moving onto the mains and it suddenly came back to being a real Sunday lunch. While I was looking through the menu it was almost like looking through a real Sunday lunch menu at a more traditional restaurant and I know for a fact that the real focus on doing simple dishes well was going to mean that I wasn’t going to have to critique the food on its technique but on its flavour.
With everyone choosing to go down the meat rather than the seafood option, it was clear that a hearty meal was soon to be enjoyed, especially given the fact that we were going to be enjoying the likes of meatballs, lamb shank cooked with cinnamon and lamb moussaka.
Tucking into my meatballs, they were presented in a beautiful tomato sauce and really mixed well with some beautiful, aromatic Greek rice. With regards to the lamb shank, it simply needs to be said that it was melt in the mouth and you probably could have eaten it with a spoon. The lamb was complemented by some crisp, crunchy and simply fantastic rosemary potatoes.
As for the moussaka, while not to my taste, I am reliably informed that it was a dish that really captured the vegetables and meat and brought them together in some style with the flavour being one that my wife simply described as divine.
To summarise, if you are an independent restaurant looking to create a winning formula then use the Olive Tree as your template: great food, great flavour and great authenticity allows you to find your level without overawing you.
I will be back!
Categories: Restaurant reviews