As dependable as some of the better spots in York are, sometimes it’s worth heading somewhere new and seeing what’s up for offer, and with the low prices of The Olive Tree’s weeknight menu, it seemed worth trying out.
Offering itself up as a Mediterranean restaurant with an English twist, as well as a focus on local and seasonal ingredients, it’s easy to see how The Olive Tree might be a little confused.
We arrived to an empty restaurant, a little alarming but given that we were dining at six it wasn’t too much of a put off.
For somewhere claiming to be influenced by the cuisine of southern France and the Med, it was strange to see that the wine list was composed largely of new world bottles, and the Sauvignon Blanc we settled on had a harsh acidity and little else going for it. To start with we had tomato and carrot soup, and prosciutto with peaches. Something about that combination didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I remembered it was January and that peaches hadn’t been in season for at least three months.
Prepared at the height of sticky summer, the combination of fresh warm peaches and salty prosciutto is a triumph, but the cold tinned variety with bland ham I was given were a less colourful affair by far. For a restaurant priding itself on seasonality and locality, this was poor. The soup was better, nicely spiced but nonetheless a little grainy. For mains we went for Mediterranean vegetable pasta and steak frites, rare. The pasta was nicely al dente, but had a complete lack of seasoning and was excessively oily. The ‘Mediterranean’ vegetables it came with included parsnips, broccoli and potatoes alongside the usual peppers, olives and tomatoes.
The steak arrived medium well, was sent back and was then returned to me blue. I’m perfectly happy with a blue steak, but not with one which is so gristly it’s two thirds inedible. The chips were soggy and the salad was covered in a foul, floury sauce. Given the opportunity, I would make it illegal to call a sauce like that a jus.
After complaining for a second time the waitress proceeded to argue with me about how my steak was cooked, while waiter number two stood there telling me he had fried the chips himself and so there was nothing to complain about. After two minutes of arguing the manager took the steak away and eventually agreed to removing it from the bill.
When Rustique is only a 2 minute walk away, it’s madness to spend your money at The Olive Tree. Think stale, uninspired and lazy cooking with serving staff who actually argue with you during your meal and it should be clear that The Olive Tree is best avoided.
The Olive Tree is found at 10 Tower Street.