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The Olive Room – Distinctive, delectable and divine

November 29, 2011

THERE’S something rather satisfying about discovering a brilliant little eatery hidden away in a narrow, sloping back street. There’s nothing particularly luxurious or imposing about Ilfracombe’s The Olive Room from the outside. Nor does it scream sophisticated dining, once inside.

However, it won’t be long before you are lounging about in this relaxed, cosy, bistro-style eatery which uses funky, original art to offset its individuality and character. You’ll feel free to get stuck into newspapers or peruse interesting features, including old album covers on the wall and a time-battered fireplace.

The friendly staff put you at ease making it the kind of eatery you could hang out in alone or with a gang of friends. Cool retro vibes, pumped daringly loudly through the speakers, make a welcome change from the usual subtle, yet insipid and bland musical offerings you usually get when eating out. Characterful music (we loved it and played Name That Tune while waiting for our meal), and distinctive decor, bode well … yet what about the food?

Three adjectives spring to mind: “distinctive, delectable and divine”. Everything we tried on the menu tasted as good as it sounded.

A generous bowl of tomato and chilli soup gave a suitably spicy kick-start to the proceedings. My eating partner, meanwhile, devoured a starter of roasted vegetables offset with the salty taste of halloumi cheese and sun dried tomato tapenade.

Vegetarians will pretty much be in paradise in this intimate eatery, run by brother and sister team Becky Brocklehurst and chef Jim Coslett (formerly of The Boston Tea Party), as there are plenty of imaginative veggie choices. I can vouch for the spicy tagine, an artful blend of yummy flavours in the form of sweet potato, chickpeas, apricots and almonds on a bed of fruity cous cous and tzatziki.

Meanwhile, the Jamaican-style lime lamb created an equally favourable reaction in my eating partner – deliciously tender served with sweet potato mash.

Puddings, certainly, weren’t of the uniform, bought-in variety – a big disappointment after a scrumptious meal. For a comforting treat I can recommend the bread and butter pudding, with its secret tangy ingredient (my guess: marmalade). The melt-in-the-mouth lemon tart was also a huge hit.

If you like to kick back and relax in a low-key, snug setting, which belies its outrageously good food, this is the one for you. As for me I’ll definitely be back.

The Olive Room is serving food this winter from 6.30pm Thursday – Saturday and also open for lunch from 12 pm on Saturdays.  For more information click here.

Write up from the North Devon Journal.

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