A modern counterpoint to the medieval rows, Olive Tree Brasserie is perched on the central and relatively quiet street of Westgate. The Chester branch is one of three Olive Tree restaurants, one located in Stockton Heath and the original restaurant in Lytham St Annes.
Sun-drenched Westgate Street brings welcome relief to the crowds of Eastgate and Bridge Street. The sun pours through large glass windows into the restaurant, catching the polished surfaces and illuminating a strikingly realistic-looking large olive tree.
The tables are spread out at the foot of the tree in the center of the restaurant. Facing the windows, the kitchen is partially open, half hidden by metal shelves.
READ: M56 Tatton Services will create hundreds of jobs in Cheshire
The atmosphere of the restaurant reflects the environment: relaxed and modern, if a little quiet. It lacks some of the character of its old surroundings, eschewing them in favor of a somewhat confusing mix of minimalism, industrial light fixtures, and a large faux tree.
Casual conversation bounces off the polished surfaces, and there’s very little to separate one table from another, and as such there’s no privacy. However, the friendly, relaxed staff ease any anxieties and don’t fuss, striking the balance between attentive service and letting diners get along.
Sounds erupt from the kitchen, past the shelves, becoming a din as I concentrate, as chefs raise their voices over banging pans. They serve a menu strewn with Greek dishes: gyros, kebabs, salads, moussaka and kleftico are served alongside burgers, steak, brunch eggs, appetizers and Sunday roasts.
A shade of pink on the menu draws attention to the cocktails – 17 variations in all – possibly denoting specialty status. Wines are also offered alongside specialty Greek, unpasteurized beers ordered from a microbrewery in the country called Septem.
On the lunch menu, jackfruit gyros: jackfruit donuts, barbecue sauce, salad, galette, seasoned fries – which seems a relative steal at £8.50, compared to some of the more expensive options. Kebabs, for example, cost between £14.95 for a vegan version with meatballs and £18.95 for lamb.
Jackfruit is the largest tree fruit in the world, weighing up to three stones, native to southern India, Sri Lanka and the rainforests of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Beneath the thick, coarse skin is sinewy flesh that tastes like artichokes.
In recent years I have heard that this fruit is used as a substitute for chicken. Olivier’s offer does not disappoint. A delicate paste surrounds the fruit, which soaks up the flavors of the oil and adds its own sweetness.
A substantial charred flatbread surrounds the jackfruit and salad, laid out on a bed of generously seasoned fries – which I can still taste. . . perhaps they were too generous. Although it was listed as one of the lightest offerings in the restaurant, being on the lunch menu I cannot finish it. However, he didn’t feel particularly Greek. That feeling was lost somewhere between the fries and the barbecue sauce.
As I said at the top of this article, The Olive Tree Brasserie is certainly a stylish and modern counterpoint to its old surroundings, but it also reflects the relaxed atmosphere of Westgate Street. The food is more filling than expected for a place with a decidedly minimalist and modern atmosphere.
Does it live up to its four-star rating on Tripadvisor? May be. There isn’t much special or unique about this place; it feels like it was designed to be as harmless as possible. In Aesop of Greece’s own words, “in trying to please everyone, he had pleased no one”.
Newsletter: Sign up for CheshireLive email alerts straight to your inbox here