6 Church Street
Tel: 01905 616669

THERE’s something quite romantic about discovering a new restaurant tucked away in a little side street, especially when it’s housed in a beautiful redundant church.

It was, however, with some trepidation that I stepped inside the Olive Branch, which recently opened up in Church Street – squashed between St Swithun’s Church and Superdrug – because the last time I entered this hallowed building was towards its final days as a curry house and, frankly, it was grim.

But one step inside and it became very obvious that a lot of time and money has been spent refurbishing the building.

Inside, it is now smart, contemporary and stylish, which sets off the historic features such as the stained glass windows perfectly.

Housed over three small floors, we opted to go down into the new cellar bar for our pre-dinner drinks. With its brick vaulted ceiling, soft lighting and cosy corners, the bar is an ideal place to take advantage of some ‘twofor- one’ cocktails.

Clearly we weren’t the first to discover the Olive Branch as all the other tables were already taken. The atmosphere is grownup dining – thick white table cloths, smart-suited waiters – but not stuffy, fine dining.

The kitchen offers a choice of main courses – fish, pasta dishes, and steaks ranging from £10.95 to £21.95 – or a tapas menu and we opted for the latter.

The tapas dishes range from about £3.95 to £5.95 and our waiter advised us to choose two or three each. As there were four of us, it meant we more or less got to sample the whole menu.

From Greek salad to patatas bravas, fried chorizo to marinated chicken wings, and cod and pancetta fishcakes to Italian meatballs, the dishes flowed out of the kitchen. Each was shared around and all of them declared a huge hit.

My personal favourites were the potatas bravas, melanzane alla parmingiana – layers of aubergine and minced beef in a tomato and basil sauce, topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheese – and sardines which were roasted in a tomato and basil salsa.

Our waiter’s advice had been spot on about the number of dishes. There was nothing left over, but we had space for some desserts.

These were chosen from the specials board and we opted for tiramisu and the maple and pecan cheesecake. Both, priced £4.95, were utterly delicious and the perfect way to round off our meal.

We accompanied our meal with a bottle of wine, priced £13.95.

Bottled beers are £3.45 and a diet Pepsi £1.95, which all seemed pretty reasonable.


Food: 4

Service: 4

Value: 4

Ambience: 5