As the dark autumnal nights draw in, any little reminder of warmer, sunnier climes is appreciated.
In the absence of an actual holiday to the Mediterranean, I tried to find a little piece of it here in Preston.
The Olive Tree might not have been able to offer any help with the Lancashire weather, but its mainly Greek menu at least gives a taste of Mediterranean food.
Based in the Miller Arcade, the restaurant has been opened two years now but this was my first visit. With an open kitchen and smart bar area, the look is more modern and clean-cut than classically Mediterranean, and despite visiting on a Tuesday evening, it was reasonably busy with other diners.
My partner Ben and I were given a warm welcome by the friendly staff, who took our coats to hang up (a nice gesture often overlooked in restaurants these days!)
We decided to share an appetiser, the mixed olives with chillis (£3.95), which came with small chunks of ciabatta bread to mop up the dressing.
It was a light and simple starter, with a good mix of different varieties of olives, and green chillis which weren’t too spicy to munch through easily.
The mains selection was a well varied mix of traditional Greek dishes (mousaka, of course, features) and more quirky sounding meals. I wanted to try something different so ordered the lavraki (£17.95)- seabass fillets with dolmades on the side, while Ben had the Olive Tree kota - a creamy chicken dish (£15.50).
The lavraki featured some well grilled seabass fillets and artful swirled blobs of tahini and grape syrup dressing up the plate.
The tahini had a lovely, warm nutty taste which was very moreish, but my favourite bit was the dolmades - a vine leaf stuffed with cous cous.
However, I would have liked more than one of them and couldn’t really taste the halloumi which was supposed to accompany the cous cous filling.
Ben’s kota featured chicken breast and spinach flavoured with saffron in a creamy, feta-based sauce and a generous dollop of herbed rice.
It was rich, hearty choice for a chilly night and the plate was soon cleared.
My dessert strayed from the Greek theme but I never can resist tiramisu, while Ben followed up his hearty main with a hefty slab of chocolate and orange tart. The sizeable tart was super-rich but he managed to polish it off with only a small amount of help from me... By contrast, the tiramisu was lovely and light, though I’d have liked a little more kick from the amaretto.
The highlight for me was probably the great wine list; my Chilean sauvignon blanc with its gooseberry tones was deliciously easy to drink, and Ben was pleased to find his favourite real ale, Black Sheep, sold by the bottle.
The bill came to £60 with two drinks, which we felt was on the pricey side but we’ll probably pop back to sample the more reasonable £14.95 early diner menu or some cocktails another time.