The Olive Branch in Clipsham has been on my foodie bucket list for a while. Having read endless fantastic reviews as well as a list of awards spanning the last 15 years, I was keen to try it out for myself. Found in the tiny county of Rutland, nestled to the east of Leicestershire, the most recent accolades to join the trophy shelf include Pub of the Year and Leicestershire & Rutland Dining Pub of the Year, which they also won in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013. Pretty impressive, right?
With a similarly commendable reputation for their hotel, Beech House, we booked in for dinner, bed and breakfast for our anniversary this January. Having checked in to our unexpectedly upgraded room and dolled ourselves up, We crossed the road to The Olive Branch for our evening meal. Sat at a quaintly dressed table overlooking an open fire, the dinner was off to a good start.
I ordered a glass of Pinot and Sam a local beer (no designated driver for once - yippee!) whilst we perused the seasonal menu. Our prepaid dinner could be chosen from the set menu at £29 a head, or if we fancied something off the main menu or specials then we had £29 towards the total. A very flexible and friendly approach which of course meant we ordered more! It wasn't long before a slice of warm bread and herb butter was brought to our table; it's amazing how good the smell of fresh bread an open fire can make you feel.
To begin, we opted for hot smoked salmon, beetroot carpaccio and horseradish cream (£7.50) and a starter size ploughman's of grasmere pork pie, battlefield blue cheese and pub pickles (£7). My salmon was delightfully cooked and very slightly pink, which I loved as I'm a big fan of sushi and sashimi which is perfectly fine to enjoy raw. Some people may have been shocked at this as it wasn't mentioned on the menu, but I urge you to try this indulgent dish with both creamy and tangy accompaniments. Sam's starter oozed posh pub grub, with a solider like line of pork pie, pickles and portion of crisps all displayed on a slate.
Just an observation. looking back at what I ordered here, and if you've read any of my other recent reviews, I've realised I'm being seriously predictable with ordering salmon starters and pork belly mains. (see: cosy club and seven). I promise next time will be different.
I went for the taste of Grasmere Farm pork (£17.75) which was an assemblage of pork belly, sausage, black pudding and crackling with cider fondant and farmhouse cabbage. The gorgeous presentation speaks for itself, and the flavours were just as fantastic. I even toyed with the homemade apple sauce and miniature toffee apple, which is something I generally avoid. The deep black pudding, herby sausage, light crackling and soft pork belly all showcased the Grasmere produce in their own brilliant way. I'm starting to think i do actually like apple sauce with pork, it's just my tastebuds have been tainted by lumpy jarred stuff reminiscent of the '90s.
My boyfriend Sam ordered the Somerset sourced chargrilled rib eye steak (£24.50) which came with onion rings, chips, mushroom, tomato and melting block of café de Paris butter. He reported back that it was probably one of the most flavoursome steaks he'd sampled, albeit a little on the tough side. The charred seasoning of the meat was met with crunchy yet fluffy chips and a good choice of condiments. With his steak, he ordered a glass of Argentine Malbec, which we were pleased to see the waiter remembered to bring out exactly as the mains did.
Sam didn't have room for a dessert so enjoyed a short of Glenmorangie whisky (£3.50), whilst I went for the sticky toffee pudding (£5.75). This was everything a sticky toffee pudding should be, although I'm going to state the obvious that this inviting dessert was indeed sticky, sweet and very, very naughty.
This didn't stop me indulging in a cheeky Cosmo at the bar, it was a special occasion afterall. I couldn't have been happier to find all those awards were so well deserved and can't wait to go back or try their sister pub The Red Lion. I'll be writing up a little review of Beech House too this week, watch this space.
Have you been to The Olive Branch? What are your favourite places in Rutland? I'd love to hear them, as i don't venture to that side of the county enough.
note: we paid in full for our meals. as always, all opinions are honest and my own.