Sophie Thompson indulges with seven courses of seasonal mouthfuls at Olive Tree in Bath
On a drizzly Sunday in December, we climbed up the hills of Bath, escaping the bustle of the Christmas market and escaping into the warmth of Olive Tree restaurant.
Situated in the Queensbury Hotel, the eatery was awarded its first Michelin star earlier this year. The head chef is Chris Cleghorn, who has trained under renowned chefs Heston Blumenthal, Michael Caines and Adam Simmons.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted with smiles and escorted into the modern, intimate restaurant. Whilst the exterior of the building blended effortlessly with the rest of the neighbouring Georgian townhouses, the décor of Olive Tree was fresh and contemporary, with greys and greens blending well to create a relaxing ambiance.
Once seated, we were presented with an appetiser of truffle and raclette profiteroles, alongside potato crisps topped with tarragon cream. Whilst the profiteroles were flavoursome and rich, the potato and tarragon were great palate cleansers.
We devoured these whilst perusing the menu and salivating over the various choices, eventually opting for the seven-course tasting menu. We substituted fish courses for vegetarian alternatives due to our allergies, and our server was more than happy to accommodate and make recommendations based on our preferences.
The first course was beetroot served with a Lanark Blue cheese, salted lemon purée and pecans. This was a delicious combination of sliced beetroot, but the highlight was the sweet beetroot sorbet, which worked well with the sharp lemon. The Lanark Blue was incredibly flavoursome, and the small quantity of this powerful cheese made a great impact.
Course two was veal sweetbread, butternut, soy and peanut – accompanied with a lamb sauce. Although I wouldn’t usually choose an offal-based dish, the sweetbread appeared golden and had a wonderful crispy outside.
The soy and lamb sauce on the plate worked together to create a sharp yet sweet fusion which worked well with the saltiness of the peanut and sweetbread.
Our third course was Jerusalem artichoke, kale, onions and blackberries, with bitter chocolate. Whilst the savoury elements of this plate were rather salted, the sweeter ingredients saved this course from being overwhelmingly seasoned.
Fourthly was Fallow Deer and barbecued cauliflower, served with sprouts, golden raisins and bitter chocolate. Personally I found this to be the best course of the menu. The venison was rich and tender, whilst the juicy raisins and sprouts added new levels of texture to the dish.
Course five was Tunworth, autumn truffle and madeira jus. Embarrassingly, neither of us had tried Tunworth before, but thoroughly enjoyed this British soft cheese. The truffles added a lovely depth of nuttiness to the plate, whilst the jus was almost a little too subtle.
Both my fiancé and I agreed that the Tunworth was one of the dreamiest soft cheeses we’d tried. When we asked the server who the supplier was, we were delighted to find that we could buy it ourselves from the Bath branch of Paxton & Whitfield, and have vowed to get some for our cheese board this Christmas.
By course six, we were well and truly ready for the sweet plates. Our first dessert offering was banana puree with coconut meringue and yuzu gel. Whilst the meringue was deceptively crunchy, the yuzu was refreshing and citrusy. The banana puree was fresh, creamy and smooth and was very welcomed after such flavoursome courses.
Our seventh course was introduced to us as ‘the most intriguing course’ on Olive Tree’s menu. It was a beautifully rich dark chocolate ganache, accompanied with green olives, and a drizzle of olive oil. This was a divisive one for us. My fiancé (who can’t stand olives) wasn’t keen, whilst I found it innovative and refreshing.
The olive oil worked surprisingly well and added a great velvety note to the ganache, though the inclusion of olives was undeniably more of an acquired taste. Although a little strange at first, the savoury olives were a great accompaniment to the smooth chocolate. To conclude, we enjoyed delectable petits fours of white chocolates with lychees, alongside milk chocolates with salted caramel and vanilla bean centres.
Overall, Olive Tree was a great place to try some inventive and original dishes. The service was great and the staff were all friendly and genuine. There was no pretentious nature here, unlike some other Michelin-starred establishments.
Whilst each dish truly embraced the ingredients and produce of the British countryside, thoughtfulness and innovation was evident in every course, and the whole experience was a great adventure for the tastebuds.
The Wordrobe Verdict
Whilst seven courses proved to be a little full on for us, the five course tasting menu and á la carte options also looked like delicious alternatives.
If you are in Bath and get the chance to visit the only Michelin Star restaurant in the city, rest assured you will be treated well here.
Make it happen
Where: 4-7 Russell St, Bath BA1 2QF
Reservations: Click here or phone 01225 447928 to make a booking.
Words by Sophie Thompson