Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Olive Branch Brasserie & Bar

The Olive Branch Brasserie & Bar
High Street
Essex CO16 0EA

Tel: 01255 861199

I’ve suffered with migraine since I began my teens and there’s nothing worse than when it spoils something that you’ve been looking forward to for ages.

My wife was taking me to the Olive Branch in Thorpe-Le-Soken for my birthday. I’d been there once, many years ago and remembered it as being a good, up-market restaurant that served fabulous food.

So it was, that we ventured to the restaurant near the Essex coast.

The service was superb, we waited in the bar area with a drink (Glenmorangie on my part, Verve Clicquot for my wife) while our orders were taken. We were then shown to our table and the wine (a fruity New Zealand white - I forget the name) arrived as, shortly after, did the starters. I started with veggie sushi with a sweet chilli sauce - very nice. The sushi stuffing (if you will) consisted of very finely sliced carrot, cucumber and what appeared to be vermicelli noodles and was very tasty. Even the side salad, which I typically leave, had a tasty mustard dressing on it so it was duly eaten. My wife had a Pancetta and Gruyere Muffin (which they would also do without the pancetta as a veggie option). She said that it too was very tasty.

And so onto the mains. There was only one veggie main dish, Grilled Halloumi Cheese with Anti Pasti Vegetables. I love anti-pasti and halloumi, so the combination sounded great. And it was. The vegetables - aubergines, courgettes and peppers - were grilled and had just the right amount of 'char' to their flavour - except one piece of courgette that should have applied a bit more sunscreen before venturing close to the grill - and beneath the halloumi were some crushed new potatoes. The olive oil was delicately flavoured with various herbs and tasted great. Unfortunately, about three quarters of the way through the dish, the old migraine decided that I'd eaten enough and raised the appetite inhibitors. So that was that. I called it a day and forewent the desert I was planning - chocolate crepes with Grand Marnier, should you be interested.

My wife had a lamb dish which she said was nice (but not up to New Zealand lamb standards that she, as an Antipodean, is used to) and we had sweet potato and rosemary mash and grilled asparagus for side dishes - both quite tasty.

The Olive Branch is not the cheapest of places, but then again it isn't the dearest either - main courses ranged from £10 to £59 (for lobster for two) but the presentation, service, taste and amount of the food is certainly worth the price.

We plan to do a return trip sometime in the near future and finish all the courses without any interruption from recurring illnesses.

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