Pinning a friend down to dinner plans can prove quite a task these days, so when the stars aligned and an evening was available for two of us, I avoided the usual ‘where shall we go?’ shenanigans.
I knew I wanted to go the Olive Tree, in Chester.
I’d only heard good things about it and another friend had just been for a birthday treat, raving about her first experience of Greek food.
We booked ahead online, just to make sure, and although on the night fitting us in wouldn’t have been a problem, it was pretty busy for a Thursday, with several large groups helping add a bit more of an atmosphere.
It’s modern inside but in a very cool way, a sort of urban/vintage mix. Our coats were taken for us and we were shown to our table.
I’d checked out the menu online but was still no closer to choosing.
In the end my friend went for the Early Diner offer of two courses for £13.95. She chose skoumpri (smoked mackerel pate, with lemon, dill, Greek yoghurt and ciabatta) and I went for the spanakopita (filo pastry filled
with spinach, leeks, feta and halloumi cheese).
My portion was pretty substantial, and was absolutely delicious. It was pure comfort food and I could have just eaten another plate (or two) of the very moreish, if a little heavy, offering, and been happy with that.
The pate opposite me was going down a treat. My friend said it was excellent, although the ciabatta was a little on the crunchy side.
We weren’t quite ready for our mains straight away, and this was no problem, with the waitress checking in for when we were.
My friend had chosen kotta souvlaki (chicken breast marinated in paprika, olive oil, oregano, with seasoned chips or rice). She splashed out an extra
£1 and added sweet potato fries instead.
Now for me I had been tempted by many dishes, but there’s only one winner (I was hopeful anyway), moussaka.
On any trip to Greece I will consume more of the national dish than I imagine is advisable but it is at it’s best there.
My experience of mousakka outside of Greece has been a bit bland. I needn’t have worried.
Straight away it smelt great, and while it wasn’t the same as eating it while sitting at a shoreside taverna with a warm breeze, it was damn good.
I barely looked up from the layers of potato, aubergine, courgette, tomato sauce, minced beef and bechamel sauce.
And like my starter, it was a good size, making me regret ordering a side of roasted vegetables, although they were a bit of a disappointment, being too wet to qualify as roasted in my book.
But the mousakka more than made up for it. It’s a flavour combination that just takes me right back to every Greek adventure.
Across the table my friend was enjoying large skewered pieces of chargrilled chicken, with salad and that side of sweet potato fries.
It was fragrant and deceptively filling. She had no complaints.
Over more drinks, ginger ale for me and white wine for her, we amused ourselves with my tales of dating (do people actually just meet people any more?) and a toothfairy story that had me in tears, before finally admitting that despite being damn full, we were both having dessert.
I went for apple cinnamon kataifi (angel hair filo pastry roll filled with apple, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, and served with pistachio ice cream).
My dining companion ordered the baklava (layers of filo pastry filled with pistachio, walnuts and honey, with vanilla ice cream).
Both were the perfect sweet finale, full of great summery flavour combinations, and neither was too heavy.
Overall it was a lovely visit, staff were friendly and attentive, and the food was a delight.
We decided the Olive Tree would make a great start for a girls’ Christmas night out, and have vowed to make plans now (remember, getting two of us together was hard work, four months is just about plausible
for six of us).
They are even advertising their set festive menus already, clearly thinking of us.
Olive Tree Brasserie, Watergate Street. Chester. Tel: 01244 956643
Food quality: 9/10
Children welcome: Yes
Disabled access: Yes, a ramp up to the rows on Bridge Street
See full story in the Chester Leader