Finding interesting things to say about Greek food is difficult because, let’s be honest, Greek food just isn’t interesting. There’s nothing wrong with it but it’s pretty much dips, lamb (always cooked with garlic, lemon and rosemary) and yoghurt. There are never any surprises. You’re never going to go into a Greek restaurant and say, 'Goodness me, I never expected that!'
It’s testament to the family-friendliness of the establishment that the waiting staff file over one by one to tease the little boy and provide him with paper and pens.
But that’s not to say it can’t be damn good food. And luckily that’s what I found when I went to the Chapel Allerton branch of The Olive Tree. Open since January 2005, The Olive Tree is the third in the successful Psarias-owned Leeds chain (the others are in Rodley and Headingley).
The Olive Tree (on Harrogate Road) is a discreet little place with no more than around 15 tables. The décor is simple and white with wooden floors and wooden tables, but very stylish. There is a nod to the Greekness in the form of some artfully placed pottery and some ghastly coloured inserts in the table-tops but we could be in any Mediterranean restaurant. One tell-tale sign is the prominently displayed Guinness Book of Records, in which the restaurant features for being a holder of the record for the longest kebab (325 metres) and the largest milkshake (17,425 litres).
Service is prompt and friendly and we are offered our choice of table so we sit in a quiet corner and order a bottle of sparkling water. Some minutes later an incredibly attractive Greek woman in her twenties comes in with her small son and they proceed to provide the entertainment. It’s testament to the family-friendliness of the establishment that, rather than tut at her or shoo her out, the waiting staff file over one by one to tease the little boy and provide him with paper and pens. One of them tells him that if he doesn’t eat all his food he won’t grow up big and strong. Another asks him his name and, quick as a flash, in true four-year-old style he replies, “Tiger”.
Before they leave, the mum comes over to ask if they have been annoying but they were a joy to watch and their presence served to highlight the restaurant’s ability to accommodate an intimate couple, a large post-A-level results meal, and a little boy called Tiger.
The menu at The Olive Tree is standard Greek fare. Meat, veg and fish mezes are available to share, alongside larger fish and meat dishes, dips and salads. To start, I have a good old Cypriot favourite, halloumi (£5.95) and my companion has mixed dips (£5.75). My halloumi is done to perfection, moist and chewy and my partner’s dips (hummus, taramasalata, tsatsiki) are just right (apart from losing half the taramasalata to me).
For the mains, my partner has the Kleftiko (lamb) (£13.95), which he describes as nice and garlicky, moist and tender and falling off the bone (a phrase which has always made me slightly nauseous) and my own kota hydra (or chicken in white wine and cream sauce) (£11.95) is deliciously moist. The sauce has a hint of nutmeg and is the perfect foil for my basmati and vermicelli rice (£2.25).
Despite being pretty much full, we order pudding. I want to choose something nice and Greek like the Stafidhopitta (The Olive Tree's special dessert with sultanas, filfar orange liqueur and a hint of cinnamon in filo pastry) but I don’t really like cinnamon so I boringly opt for the chocolate fudge cake (£4.95) and my companion goes native and chooses the Meloyiaourti (Greek yoghurt with honey, crushed almonds and pistachio nuts) (£4.95). My cake, which comes with ice-cream, is nice enough but not ground-breaking and I wish I had chosen the Meloyiaourti, which is delicious.
When we order our dessert we also order two espressos (£1.95) but they come before the pudding, which is a little strange. But the coffee is nice and well-presented in a chrome cup and saucer.
We leave the restaurant well-fed and happy and go to a nearby friends' house to play with some kittens, where we're far too full to accept a drink or a snack. Job done, I say.
|Breakdown:|| 7/10 Food |
|Address:|| The Olive Tree |
188-190 Harrogate Road
0113 269 8488
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