Saturday, May 11, 2013

Olive & Thyme

One of my favourite things to do on a Sunday is go for either a nice relaxing lunch or a leisurely stroll. Well on this particular Sunday we really were in for a treat as we had both of these activities on the agenda. We started our day's adventure with a trip to Chorlton Water Park - one of the best parks in Manchester if you ask me. Having fed the ducks and geese a load of bread crusts left over from a tea party we'd had the previous day, it was now time to fill our own bellies at the nearby Olive & Thyme.

Olive & Thyme hadn't been on our radar for long but no sooner had we started following them on Twitter, we got an email from Rachel who was in charge of the restaurant's PR asking if we'd like to come down and do a review. This came at a perfect time when we'd just come back from Barcelona with a big dose of the holiday blues. All we knew about Olive & Thyme except that it was fairly new, it was run by the same people as Panicos whose famous kebabs we are yet to try but have heard a LOT about and that it is one of a few restaurants of a similar ilk in Chorlton.

Our first impression as we arrived was of the pleasant outdoor terrace - pretty swanky for England, and I can imagine it getting pretty rammed the minute we get the tiniest ray of sunshine. Inside, the place was also nicely done out with a wood burner in the corner and a fairly modern interior. Even the "muzak" they were piping out was pretty relaxing. It was just a shame it was a little bit quiet, although I think most of Chorlton is too busy fighting for a table at The Parlour on a Sunday.

The starters selection is great - everything sounds delicious and just my sort of food. We kicked things off with a Lavas flatbread made in Olive & Thyme's own traditional bread oven (all customers receive one of these bad boys free with their meals) and a Hot Lux Meze for Two. We didn't know what to expect of this meze and assumed it would be a lighter taster of a few of their starters, so were pretty surprised to be presented with a gut-busting plate featuring olives, falafel, sucuk sausages, mozzarella risotto balls, halloumi, hand-rolled meatballs, houmous and Sigara Boregi feta cheese pastry rolls. Along with the flatbread this was quite a generous portion of food!

The flatbread was light and crispy and served with a tasty aubergine dip and an irresistible garlic butter. Not quite as good as the ones from Zeugma, but still up there. The Meze was piping hot, fresh and all of a very good quality. We particularly liked the houmous and mega cheesy risotto balls, Bailey tells me the meatballs were great too. These two plates were definitely the dishes of the day for us and what we will be coming back to Olive & Thyme for. I can imagine whiling away a sunny Saturday afternoon on the terrace with my friends knocking back the beers and a few Mezes and flatbreads between us. However, as I say this was a lot of food and a starter between two this was really filling, and remember, we are a pair of gannets. I could quite happily have stopped eating at this point had there not been mains on the way.

The mains selection was a lot less inspiring than the starters with what, in my opinion seemed to be far too many things on offer. Maybe they thought, given the competition in Chorlton, offering more things might get more people through the door. Not too sure. I chose the Vegetarian Moussaka which was a really hearty portion of cheesy, rich, courgettey, auberginey naughtiness with rice and salad. Ordinarily I would have been all over this veggie moussaka but after the meze it was all too much and I had to leave some behind... Me leaving food?! Unheard of!

After spotting the wood-fired oven in the kitchen, Bailey decided to go for the Al Funghi pizza and had high expectations on the back of the quality of the Lavas flatbread. While this was a decent enough pizza with a crisp base, he felt the toppings and sauce could have done with a bit more oomph and overall it didn't quite set his world on fire especially considering the oven it had been cooked in.

We really couldn't find any space for a dessert (but just so you know we'd have gone for the Baklava) but our arms were twisted to try a Turkish Coffee. I was glad we gave this a go as it was quite a treat to be presented with opulent platters of silver coffee cups and dishes of Turkish sweeties, I felt like we were being given a sneak peek into a wonderful Turkish tradition. In fact this looked so good that, I kid you not, someone walked past the window, looked at our coffees then come in and ordered one themselves!

I'll have what they're having.
Service was efficient throughout the meal (with the exception of being asked if we had finished our starters when we were clearly still chewing) and we had a chat with the manager who was a good dude and made us really want to go on a culinary tour of Istanbul - he is clearly very passionate about Turkish food. This did again start us off wondering why there are so many other random items on the menu, including the pizza that Bailey ordered. We think Olive & Thyme could really make more of the things they are really great at and that they are passionate about and not try to please everyone. If I were them I would be making a huge song and dance about how fantastic their flatbread / meze combo is and how special an experience their Turkish coffee is and that they have a huge beautiful terrace that you can come and enjoy it all on. If you're lucky enough to catch a ray of sun in Chorlton and fancy a terrace snack with a difference, we think this could be just the place for you. However, choose from the menu carefully - let them stick to what they're good at and avoid the random stuff.

Olive & Thyme on Urbanspoon

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