This independently owned waterside eatery offers a delicious range of vegetarian dishes, while also catering for those who need meat on the menu.
I am a self diagnosed burger addict. It has almost become a running joke between myself and my partner that wherever we go to eat, I will always choose some sort of ridiculously decadent gourmet beef burger, smothered in cheese, various toppings and sides. I’m also a big fan of steak – see my review of Cardiff’s Steak of the Art or The Grazing Shed if you don’t believe me. I think you can judge a lot about a restaurant by how good their burger or steak is. And so I surprised everyone, including myself, when I suggested we go for dinner to The Hidden Olive, a place with a predominantly vegetarian menu.
Situated in the idyllic surroundings of Sutton Harbour, The Hidden Olive is in the perfect location to attract visitors and locals alike. We were greeted enthusiastically by a young lady who we took to be the manager, were given seats by the window and were also introduced to their newest member of staff – an adorable long haired dachshund. Apparently he was discovered on a farm having been abused, and is settling in to his new home in the restaurant, where he is very well behaved and affectionate. Settling into our seats, we were given the food, wine and gin menus – that’s right, this place dedicates a whole menu to gin. 40 of them to be precise, all with recommendations of which type of tonic and garnish to serve them with. We thought it might be a bit optimistic/unwise to try and drink our way through all 40 varieties in a single evening, so we opted to order one round and some starters while we looked at the mains menu.
The menu was small, but all sounded delicious. This made decisions difficult for the whole group. There was an excellent variety, with stone baked pizzas, vegetarian and meat burgers, kebab skewers and fish. Two of us opted for vegetarian burgers, one for the chicken burger and the other for the chicken skewer. No sooner had we ordered our mains than our starters arrived. We were sharing freshly fried whitebait with garlic aoli, olives and gooey baked Camembert with ciabatta which was served with a drizzle of delicious date and fig glaze. The starters were all excellent – the whitebait was crispy and not at all oily, the olives full of flavour with just the right kick of spice, and the Camembert baked to perfection, with the rosemary placed on top just infusing a hint of the herbs flavour to the gooey cheese.
As we awaited our mains we surveyed our surroundings. The restaurant is designed to feel modern and airy, with dark wooden flooring offsetting light painted walls. The seating is predominantly in the form of long tables and benches, with a few small tables and sofas dotted around. The walls were covered with interesting contemporary artwork, possibly by local artists, which was also for sale. While we were admiring the art, our main course arrived. Slightly nervous that I’d made a mistake in going against my carnivorous instincts by ordering a veggie-burger, I took my first bite of the chickpea and sweetcorn patty. I immediately realised i’d made the right decision. The burger was full of flavour, the patty moist enough not to crumble apart when picked up. The chilli and tomato salsa gave the burger an uplifting warmth, while not overpowering the herbs and spices in the burger itself. The bun was a toasted ciabatta style bun which was perhaps a little dry, meaning it was difficult to bite into or cut without the burger ingredients falling out, and the double cooked chips were not as crispy as they could have been. That, however, may just be me being overly critical about burgers. Everyone else also seemed to agree about the quality of their food, with no plate left unfinished.
Throughout the meal, the manager ensured everything was satisfactory with our meal, making us feel very at home. Nothing was too much trouble for her, and she chatted away with us in depth at several points. The house dog also kept his eye on us, occasionally coming over for some attention before wandering off to another table or curling up on one of the sofas. Restaurants, with a few exceptions, seem to come and go quickly around the Barbican and Sutton Harbour. The area is very competitive, and relies on tourist trade. As someone who has recently moved back to Plymouth, having lived away for nearly five years, most of the restaurants I knew from the area have probably closed an reopened several times since I’ve been away. Some of the restaurants were very good and it’s a shame they closed, and some were so below par that it was a surprise they lasted as long as they did. In terms of quality of food and service, The Hidden Olive definitely belongs in the former category. The meal was delicious, the atmosphere relaxing and the service excellent. Long may this cafe/restaurant survive and thrive.
For more about The Hidden Olive, or to book a table visit their website here:
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