Over the years, I’ve driven past Oliver’s loads of times without giving it a thought. I suppose it may be because it’s never cropped up on the local foody websites. Anyway, the other week I came across it while Googling for something else, took a look at the menu (typical Modern Brit affair) and thought it worth a punt.
I like the room – quite modern, tables not crammed together, comfy seats. There’s one of those menus, where it starts off looking like a bargain fixed price affair but then you spot that about half of the items carry a supplement. So, to eat at the level of £21.95 for three courses, your choices are limited but, without particularly trying to, that’s what I ordered. My partner ordered differently with starters and mains both carrying a fair old bit extra.
She started with a scallop and pancetta dish. Scallops were properly cooked; pancetta was crisp. They sat in a pleasant, if nondescript, creamy sauce. Alongside, in the bowl, some rocket leaves which just sat there, getting slightly soggy, serving no real purpose. That was followed by a decent ribeye – classic accompaniments of salad, chips and roasted tomatoes.
Over on the bargain basement side of the table, there was a soufflé to start – Garstang Blue and pistachio. It was OK, if underseasoned and with little of the zing you’d expect from that northwestern cheese. The main course baked salmon was really good – just a nice hint of being undercooked in the centre; crisp skin. That sat on a seafood risotto – although when I say “seafood”, I mean there were a few mussels stirred through. Risotto was much better than many you come across which are, all too often, made so thick so they can be cheffed about with in a ring mould.
Desserts were a game of two halves. Ginger bread and pistachio pudding was lovely. It came with a butterscotch sauce and ice cream. Just the sort of dessert to remind you summer is ending and autumn is beginning. Chocolate and hazelnut tart was no better than OK – pastry wasn’t crisp, filling was fine – rich chocolate, not overly sweet and a crunch from the nuts, but a bit Polyfilla in consistency. .
In summary, we’d been reasonably well fed for the money but if the question was “do we need another Modern Brit bistro on our list”, then the answer is “no”.