The Olive Tree, Southampton

I must say, it’s about time I had something good to say about a restaurant in Southampton. Turtle Bay‘s quality and value-for-money was disappointing, and Tiger Lilly‘s excuse for a buffet was utterly ridiculous when priced at £16 for literally a corner of dishes. Yes I am still embittered about that.

So as soon as I got back to my university digs in the city, I took one of my friends Jon Appleby, who had been especially good to me during my financial crisis at the start of the year (he even paid for a new pair of glasses for me), out for lunch.

Southampton is lucky enough to have its own Oxford Street, which I have discovered is full of restaurants. The one we visited is called The Olive Tree – and the reason for this is that it was the only one I had vetted that had real vegetarian options for main meals – Jon is vegetarian, see.

CONFIT DUCK, PANCETTA AND BLACK PUDDING SALAD Served with a Raspberry Vinaigrette

Confit Duck, Pancetta and Black Pudding Salad
Served with a Raspberry Vinaigrette

In my perusal of the menu online, I had already made my decisions as to my choices for dishes – a salad of Confit Duck, Pancetta and Black Pudding, served with raspberry vinaigrette (see pictured) to start, and a Traditional Fish Pie for afterwards.

Jon, in his sheltered life, confessed to me that this was the first “posh” meal he had ever been out for, and was nervous even before we had entered the restaurant – saying we were out of our depth as a pair of students, when everyone else was dressed “poshly”. In reality, they were dressed normally, but I said we would get in because I have a posh voice over the phone.

CAMEMBERT FILO

Camembert Filo

Even this place doesn’t have a huge set of options for vegetarians, and in his inexperience with cuisine, Jon needed telling what Camembert and Filo pastry were before he ordered his starter, and what Linguine was when it came to his main course choice. His starter was literally named Camembert Filo (see pictured) – French cheese wrapped in pastry – it’s that simple. His only other option would have been Goat’s Cheese with Beetroot but Jon doesn’t like the latter so that’s a no-go.

Onto actually reviewing the food, my salad took three sets of meat that one would normally never put together and made something beautiful. Hell, it is a feat in itself to persuade me into eating salad! Pancetta tastes just like crispy bacon, and the duck is flaked over the rocket leaves. And as for the Black Pudding; if you had told me beforehand that raspberries go fantastically with it, I would have laughed in your face. It is truly one of the most amazing combinations a person ever came up with! And bearing in mind he didn’t know what it was before he ordered it, Jon ate the whole of his dish so it can’t have been bad. However you do only get two “wraps” (for want of a better word), so be prepared for a lot of salad beneath.

WILD MUSHROOM LINGUINE

Wild Mushroom Linguine

Moving on, we only had a short amount of time before lectures resumed so we only had two courses each. Jon’s was a Wild Mushroom Linguine (see pictured), which is just as well as I would never order anything like that. He looked positively horrified when he saw the shavings of parmesan on top of it – completely unaware of what it was. Of course he was fine when I informed him it was cheese; anyone would have thought he had been presented with wood shavings on top of his lunch! Honestly!

TRADITIONAL FISH PIE

Traditional Fish Pie

As for me, as aforementioned, a Traditional Fish Pie (see pictured), haddock, I believe, served in a lovely ceramic dish under creamy, cheesy mashed potato and just a sprinkling of parsley. Now I am used to fish pies and cottage pies and all other such dishes that require mashed potato on top of them, and they’re normally decent enough. To accommodate my sister’s diet, my mother has recently taken on the alternative of mashing carrots, swede and parsnip together instead of the carb-heavy potatoes. This was without a doubt the best texture of mash I have ever had – that is even surpassing my mother and grandmother’s superior cooking. And the haddock was beautifully flavoured in itself. I definitely made the right decision on this one.

Admittedly we did peruse desserts before we walked in but after all that, there was no hope of getting a third course in there. One word of warning – CHECK THE DRINKS PRICES BEFORE YOU ORDER! It was £3 per coke in this place – this is where it lost a point for value. They were only standard-sized bottles so you can imagine how awful it was to read that on the receipt.

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