The Olive Tree is in an area which has had its profile raised due to its proximity to venues frequented by the cast of The Only Way is Essex. Nu Bar and Luxe (owned by Lock) is just down the road. Does this make it an undeserved destination for food? Should it only be for the TOWIE fans who want to be close to their idols? Do the locals actually go out there? Well, all of these questions will be answered shortly.
Firstly it was a Friday in January when I went. It was quite early in the evening so the streets were quiet and the restaurant was just starting with its first wave of guests. The restaurant is clean and modern, with space for a live jazz set. We were sat by the bar. The staff were friendly and quite genuine, seemingly unaffected by the “fame” of the area.
Looking at the menu, it had a very Mediterranean feel with influences from Greece, Turkey, Spain and other local warm places. I tend to prefer a more succinct concept, as it makes it easier to order from a menu with dishes complimenting each other naturally.
We went for a mezze to share which had pitta bread, Greek sausage, calamari, tzatziki, hummus, taramasalata, grilled octopus, feta stuffed chilli peppers and grilled halloumi. My dining companion who is sensitive to nuts initially enquired about the nut content in this dish. Although our waitress said she had an allergy also, she seemed to be unclear about what actually had nuts and what didn’t. Not the kind of leap of faith you want to take when ones throat can enlarge to the point of not breathing etc, but another waiter assured us that there wasn’t any. Sigh of relief.
For our main course I had mixed Seafood Souvlaki which was a skewer of chargrilled scallops, salmon and king prawns. It was very fresh, a good size portion but lacking a little in taste. I could have done with a bit more of the garlic, herb and lemon jus that it comes “drizzled” with. That said, the scallops in particular, were cooked perfectly delicate as some folk serve then over done so they become chewy. The risotto it came with however, was lush. The injection of lemon on it really worked. Sam Vanilla had Kleftico which was slow cooked lamb shank cooked traditionally with herbs, garlic, and wine with potatoes. She found her lamb to be a little bit on the fatty side with a ration on the meat. What meat there was did taste great and was suitably tender, sliding away from the bone on contact.
I am intrigued to see what the other items on the menu are like as I refuse to believe that this average experience is what The Olive Tree has to offer. For the prices (central London) and the simplicity style of the dishes on the menu, the food should have really blown one’s mind. Plus it got really busy, so must be doing something right.
I will return as I hope that the next experience will prove that Loughton is good for more than reality stars and their drama.
The Olive Tree Restaurant & Bar
258 High Road
Essex IG10 1RB
T. 020 8502 3332