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Olive Press Review

Ruth Allan gets her whole family involved in a review of a decent Heathcote’s

Published on July 6th 2010.


Olive Press Review

Olive Press is owned by Paul Heathcote MBE, a man with a proper career in the kitchen as well as a portfolio of restaurants including The Longridge, Alderley Edge’s London Road, and the Spanish-focused Grado in Piccadilly. Olive Press is his casual dining chain and all in all, there are seven branches in Cheadle Hulme, Clitheroe, Preston and so forth.

My mum said that she thought that the experience was “all right, but I don’t know if I’d rush back”. I agreed: Olive Press isn’t bad at all. In some ways it’s very good: great space, great location, great deal on right now.

Manchester was one of the first when it opened back in 2004. I was working at City Life magazine at the time, and we used to come here a lot. It was just across the road from our base in the MEN building, and if memory serves, the vibes were good and the menu straightforward: tuna steaks, lasagnes, pizzas and that kind of thing.

Refreshingly, little had changed when I dropped in last week. Town was full of vuvuzelas and the cavernous restaurant offered cool respite from the mentalism outside. The design is rustic Tuscan; a hock of ham rests on the kitchen pass (see image), and real-life store cupboards line the walls. It’s simple, stylish place, with slabs of tables that make even large glasses of wine look small.

I brought my mum, dad and my six-year-old son Arthur with me, and lunch got off to a flying start as Dad ogled the specials board over the open kitchen. ‘Mmmmm’ he said, ‘they’ve got a special kind of tiramisu and goose-something…. Goosnargh chicken. That sounds good.’

With a Michelin-rated past (The Longridge had two stars for a brief period), Heathcote is good with sourcing food, and the kids offering is something of a speciality too. The chain has won a clutch of family-friendly awards, and while the offering is typical (pizza, ice cream, soft drinks and so on), the facilities are excellent, and include a range of high chairs, colouring pens and super friendly staff.

Giving the food for grown ups my attention, I thought the menu had become more adventurous over the years. There is a pan-fried ricotta, potato gnocchi with marjoram and lemon, stone-baked pizzas including a lobster and lime edition as well as rustic stews, steaks and salads. The thinking, I imagine, is to give us what we know we like, as well as a few more interesting choices. It works well as a whole, and the wine list takes a similar tactic.

Favourites like Gavi and Soave stand out alongside young Sicilian whites (we went for a Fiano) as well as Chianti and Barolo for those looking to spend a bit more. The exclusively Italian selection won’t please connoisseurs, but then that’s not the point of a casual place like Olive Press, is it? Think of it more as an introduction to the wines of Italy.

Onto the grub.

Delivered at a canter rather than a saunter, Dad’s starter of bresaola, walnut, radish and trevise salad was quick to arrive and worth the £6.20 price tag. In the northern Italian Alps, cured bresaola would have originally been made with horse meat. At Olive Press they use beef, with a drizzle of honey and some baby shoots for contrast. Nice. Mum’s bruschetta skirted around okay. Tomatoes, raw onions, and a good, olive oil were the main flavours. Have to say, I prefer a ripe tomato rubbed on my bread and little else, but mum seemed to enjoy it. I liked it more than my flavourless rosemary and potato soup at any rate. “It’s really nice Mum,” Arthur insisted. I wasn’t sold. I think it was just saltier than the soup I make at home.

As we waited for our main courses, we all agreed that we really liked seeing our food being prepared. For once, there were few cries of “where is my pizza?” from Arthur because thanks to an impressive open kitchen, he could see exactly where his pizza was - and I could finally see what the point of an open kitchen was.

Dad’s duck pappardelle was first off the shiny pass. Fall apart duck breast in a tangy, reduction of red wine, any sharpness off-set by al dente strips of pasta. Across the table, Arthur’s mini-margarita was just that: tomatoey, cheese, and well executed, while Mum’s pizza with peppers and freshly-grilled tuna had the tang of undercooked dough. Best of all was my slow-cooked chicken cacciatore. Tender and moist in the way that confit duck can be, the dish was pocked with grape-sized onions, and button mushrooms to add texture and sharpness.

To round the meal off, I ordered two desserts to share. Caramelised peaches were all that and more, thanks to a marzipany sauce, and a hunk of pistachio ice cream on the side, while the chalk-board-hyped-up classic tiramisu ‘Le Beccherie’ (so named, I presume after the Treviso restaurant which came up with the recipe in the 1970s) was none too bitter, but none too mind blowing either. A reasonable, homemade dish, we agreed.

Which brings us onto the more than reasonable bill.

Olive Press have a promotion on right now which lasts during the World Cup (ie. until July 11) meaning that punters get a marvellous 30 per cent off their bill. This meant that the four of us ate, drank and were merry for £65.

It was an excellent deal which we mulled over back at my flat. My mum said that she thought that the experience was “all right, but I don’t know if I’d rush back”. I agreed: Olive Press isn’t bad at all. In some ways it’s very good: great space, great location, great deal on right now.

It’s a shame that the food didn’t quite sing, but this is a solid, family-friendly bet, and right now, it’s extremely affordable too.


Rating: 14.5/20
Breakdown: 7/10 food
4/5 service
3.5/5 ambience
Address: Olive Press Manchester
4 Lloyd Street
Off Deansgate,
M2 5AB
T: 0161 832 9090
F: 0161 835 3534
E:Click here to email

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Simon14452July 5th 2010.

Good review, and I have to agree, even a 'chain', be it a small one, thats The Olive Press is, this one in Manchester if very very good. We have always had good food, and generally the service is great, and the prices are very generous indeed.

NortherngeezerJuly 5th 2010.

Nice 'dumplings' Ruth ;-)

Gordo on tourJuly 5th 2010.

Nice to see you out with an ironed dress and hair nicely brushed eh, Ruth? Schofield, sort your subbing out you lazy bugger: para re pudds

AnonymousJuly 5th 2010.

What is Trevise?

J E SibberingJuly 6th 2010.

Can't you get Google in Anonymousland then?

'Trevise is lettuce - the longer and more spindly cousin of the round radicchio. It has an infinitely finer taste with a bitterness that can sock you one, and it is equally good raw or cooked. There is also a strain of the ordinary endive that has leaves tinged with red. It looks quite pretty, but that's about all...'

'...Heathcote well is up on sourcing food,' oops

JayJuly 6th 2010.

Gordo, those roaming charges for the iPhone aint cheap you know!

AnonymousJuly 6th 2010.

Does that child not have any table manners?

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It had similar, next to Puccinis, which always had fights and stabbings. So, I'm going to disagree.

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