Nestled unassumingly at the end of Regent Street, independent Greek restaurant The Olive Grove arrived in Cambridge from Elafonisos in 2013. Being of Greek descent myself, I was naturally going to be a tough critic, but this surpassed all my expectations and certainly gave my YiaYia’s cooking a run for its money.
The decor, recently refurbished, is elegant and inviting. Upstairs is warm and welcoming like a traditional taverna, downstairs classy in muted greys. The menu has undergone a revamp in recent months and features a vast range of authentic dishes given a contemporary twist by head chef Joseph Zatany.
Greek cuisine is known for being meat heavy and here is no exception – lamb, pork and chicken dishes make up a significant chunk of the menu. Fortunately, vegetarians are well catered for too, and whilst the salad descriptions are not quite as enticing as those of their meaty counterparts, the fantastic selection of dips and mezze dishes means that meat-free friends will not be disappointed.
After much deliberation, we go for feta and spinach pastries with tomato marmalade and aubergine dip with pitta to start. The aubergine dip has a lovely smokiness to it, juices absorbed perfectly by the toasted, deliciously chewy pitta. But the star of the starters is the feta pastries with tomato marmalade. The pastry itself is light, flaky and not at all oily whilst the tomato marmalade is the perfect balance of sweet to balance the briny kick of the feta. My only suggestion would be: bring more! A third pastry would better justify the £6.80 price.
Our starters set a high bar for the mains, but upon laying eyes on them fifteen minutes later, we know they will measure up. My boyfriend’s lamb shank dish is beautifully presented and the flavours equally impressed, with him declaring it ‘some of the best lamb he ever had’. High praise indeed. The chickpea puree it is served on also deserves a mention – it has a great, nutty texture, providing a sophisticated alternative to mashed potato.
My orzo pasta with prawns is exquisite: rich and creamy with the pasta cooked to al dente perfection. The sauce features Chios mastic (nope, I hadn’t heard of it either) which lends it a unique cedar like flavour. The owner, who’s clearly extremely knowledgable about the culinary world, took great pride in explaining the origin of this ingredient and its role in the dish to me. This is something we noticed in all the serving staff: they care about this menu and want you to enjoy it as much as they do.
Service was very attentive and prompt – although this may have had something to do with the fact we were the only ones in the restaurant on a quiet Sunday night. A recent visit has since told me that the place fills up on Fridays and Saturdays and unfortunately the speed of the service takes a subsequent dip.
Prices are not student budget friendly, but value for money is undeniably there. High quality ingredients, refined flavours and thoughtful presentation more than justified the higher prices, whilst the atmosphere is so pleasant that you’ll want to spend the whole night there. Perfect for special occasions, The Olive Grove serves up a winning combination of excellent food, friendly service and a lovely dining environment. Find a friend with a late January birthday and head down to Regent Street now.