On the week of the Summer Solstice, signalling the official start of British Summer time, and Glastonbury Festival what better time to enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean in Brighton. Admittedly the weather had been a little touch and go during the week, consisting mostly of being muggy and overcast followed by lots of rain, but I was not going to let that stop me. It is summer now so I am going to blooming well enjoy it.
The Olive Grove is an oasis of summer goodness in the heart of The Lanes situated on the site that used to be Yum Yum Ninja. I strolled in on a day which had steadily started to take a turn for the worst but took a seat in the courtyard to enjoy a beer whist waiting for my friend – a number of others had chosen to do the same.
The team behind The Olive Grove took over in September having previously run Vinopolis in London. The style is Mediterranean and so a mix of Italian, Spanish and Greek food and focusses on the simple fresh dishes that those countries are known for. They have done a really great job transforming the site into a pleasant place to be. I sit and sip my beer and I really feel as though I could be somewhere in Spain or similar – even more authentic as I am surrounded by English speaking people.
My friend arrives and we decide to dine al fresco – there might be a few clouds and a faint rumble of thunder but that’s not going to deter us – and are brought a selection of dishes to enjoy. I start with a Kolokithokeftedes which is a courgette and feta fritter which is light, crisp and delightful. This is followed by some potato balls with anchovy – sort of like savoury zeppole or pallotte – which are surprisingly light. The thunder is getting slightly more regular at this point and it is spitting a little so we put up our umbrella.
We then tuck into two types of bruschetta starting with a classic tomato, basil and garlic followed by a parma ham and artichoke. The artichoke is the better of the two but I enjoy both and the combination of sweet basil and tomato is a classic. At this point all hell breaks loose and we are in the middle of a storm of biblical proportions – perhaps time to go inside.
Now indoors and looking out at a classic British summer scene, a couple of women have stayed out there and barricaded themselves behind umbrellas, we continue the journey. We are presented with some fried cheese called Mastelo from the greek island of Chios. It is similar to a mild and less rubbery halloumi and better in my opinion as a result.
Next up are stuffed mushrooms with feta and a balsamic glaze which are nicely balanced and the right side of juicy with a little bite. Chef then prepares a dish of gambas and squid ink risotto followed by a griddled squid salad. As my friend doesn’t eat shellfish it is up to me to eat both.
The risotto is wonderfully simple and the prawns are equally straight forward. It is a dish of simple pleasures that has been prepared with skill. The squid salad is equally humble and yet delivers meaty chunks of flesh with a hint of BBQ smoke that is reminiscent of a meal I had by the sea in Croatia.
I’m starting to fill up, the rain is ceasing a little and the ladies are still out there smoking, and we have a chat with the owner Alex. He tells us a little about the history of the restaurant and their aim of bringing Mediterranean food to the people of Brighton. He pours us a shot of Mastiha which is a greek spirit produced form the resin of Mastiha trees – hence the name. It has a really earthy and yet sweet flavour and puts Ouzo to shame for ever having become so popular.
We finish our Mediterranean adventure with a dessert platter of tiramisu, baklava and a greek yoghurt mousse. It is a fantastic end to the meal and I particularly enjoy the coffee rich tiramisu and the light and refreshing mousse. The rain has pretty much stopped now – so much for the start of summer.
The Olive Grove is a fantastic addition to Brighton’s food landscape. They are not out to produce over the top “wow” food as that would not fit with the concept. Instead offer the diner a little escapism. I walked away with a smile on my face after enjoying a meal of simple, fresh and light food. It would be the perfect spot to stop off for a sunny tapas lunch in the courtyard or evening meal with a glass or two of wine. If the weather does let you down the interior is very nice too. Tapas dishes range from £2.90 up to £5.90 with mains around £10 and a tasting menu for £19.90 per head.
15-18 Meeting House Lane
Telephone: +44(0)1273 722325
This review first appeared in the July 15th edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. I was invited to review and the meal was complimentary.