The Olive Tree Restaurant at The Queensberry Hotel
We wholeheartedly agree that the Michelin stardust sprinkles have definitely dusted a worthy recipient
Laurence and Helen Beere – head honchos of the super-stylish little independent restaurant that’s thrived for many years below (and as an intrinsic part of) the equally gorgeous independent boutique hotel The Queensberry – recently announced some Very Big News: having been Head Chef at The Olive Tree for over five years, Chris Cleghorn has earned his kitchen a Michelin star – the only one awarded in Bath in the 2018/19 roll call, one of only 97 awarded outside of London, and one of only 15 new names to be added to the illustrious list this year.
Now this is, of course, Chris’s moment in the spotlight – his turn to shine, if you will. But if we may allow ourselves a little moment of basking too, we have to say that this star-spangled news came as no surprise to us; as we concluded after a visit to The Olive Tree at the start of this year, “each and every single dish we tasted ran the whole, glorious gamut of flavours, textures, skills, picture-perfection and deep, deep satisfaction at every turn,” before declaring that Chris is “undoubtedly one of the most imaginative, dextrous and downright exciting chefs working his magic in Bath right now” – so yes, we wholeheartedly agree that the Michelin stardust sprinkles have definitely dusted a worthy recipient. But hey, y’know, we just had to revisit The Olive Tree again, just to, y’know, make sure…
We began our starlit voyage as everybody should begin a visit to The Olive Tree: with a cocktail (okay, one Manhattan and one glass of fizz) in The Queensberry’s Old Q bar – a super-seductive, understatedly chic environment that perfectly sets the scene for super-seductive food. Just in case you’re not au fait with how those super-seductive menus roll, Chris uses top notch, seasonal, largely locally sourced ingredients to create dishes that combine well-honed tradition with modern innovation, put together and presented to their very best advantage across a selection of Tasting Menus. You might encounter a little bit of chef-meets-scientist/magician influence as you work your way along a Cleghorn-curated prandial journey, but whatever spells Chris and his team conjure up, every single flourish brings a singularly distinctive element to the plate and the palate: playful but never pretentious, innovative yet accessible.
As we want this review to act as a firm “do it!” recommendation rather than a “how we did it” blow-by-blow account, we’re opting out of the usual format of turning the spotlight on any given individual dishes because, as Chris’s ingredients come and go according to his strictly seasonal/local market availability diktat and his Tasting Menus are designed to take you on an extremely well-balanced journey that results in the epicurean version of a concerto rather than a collection of individual greatest hits, a blow-by-blow could swiftly become redundant. Having said that…
If a starter dish described as raw Orkney scallop is still on the menu when you visit (which you must, and soon,) then seriously, prepare to be blown away: iridescent slivers of enticingly delicate, silky sea-treasure, their inherent sweetness enhanced by subtly opposing forces of earthy horseradish and acidic pink grapefruit and dotted hither and thither with tantalising little tumbles of what I can only described as a kind of freeze-dried sorbet, resulting in an almost ethereally sensual experience that I’ll fondly remember for a very, very long time. Smoked eel – which Chris somehow manages to make look like the Toffee Finger in a Quality Street box rather than a slightly sinister slippery thing – came with celeriac, lovage, apple and a Cheddar cheese sauce… and tasted like a grown up, transcendent relative of Welsh Rarebit, supplemented by a deeply umami arc. A neat little nest of tagliatelle came bathed in luxurious white truffle beautifully offset by nutty, sweetly fruity, deeply savoury 36-month aged parmesan. Velvety soft, Baker-Miller pink slithers of Woolley Park Farm duck came with barbecued cauliflower complex enough in flavour to be take a centre-stage role in its own right, while succulent, mineral-rich sea beet, buttery hazelnut and just enough lemon to make an acidic presence felt added yet more subtle character. The glory of super-fresh, super-clean brill on the bone was elevated to Manna from Heaven courtesy of syrupy-sweet black garlic, peppery nasturtium and supremely elegant mussel cream, while elderberries, Jerusalem artichoke, kale and bitter chocolate put rich, tender Fallow Deer at the epicentre of a game masterpiece…
…sorry, I said I wouldn’t do the dish-detail thing, but I couldn’t help myself – and anyway, there’s no way I would have been able to hold back on sharing (not literally, of course – I would never share a finale dish this good) the baked milk chocolate dessert: think, a generous slab of the very best ever version of creamy, smooth, not-too-sweet milk chocolate that you’ve ever, ever tasted, resting on a halo of peanuts, topped with a plump quenelle of toasty brown butter ice cream, and drizzled with utterly, utterly divine salted caramel: to say this dessert is sublime doesn’t do it justice. So there. But we’re not finishing this review here, because…
Throughout the whole Olive Tree experience (and it is very much an experience,) every single member of a team headed up by charismatic restaurant manager Roman Vidal makes every single moment here special. Friendly, efficient, confident and, most importantly, just really nice people, they represent the very best example of modern hospitality industry expertise; by the time you say goodnight, you feel as though you’re bidding farewell to a group of new friends. On a similar but very personal theme…
Saying goodnight to Chris Cleghorn as we left The Olive Tree this time around, I felt as though I was bidding farewell to an old friend who richly deserves his recent distinguished approbation for The Olive Tree; it’s now officially a stellar experience indeed.
The Small Print Multiple Tasting Menus and accompanying Wine Flights abound at The Olive Tree, offering five and seven course options and a lunch menu alongside specific vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free selections – click here for the full array (plus prices) and prepare to venture forth on an voyage of prandial discovery which honestly does represent excellent value for money for an unforgettable experience such as this.
It’s easy to think we know all we need to know about our buzzy, busy little city, ignoring the need to revisit certain long-standing institutions because we think we know all about them. But life in Bath is as subject to transition and transformation as life in any other urban metropolis may be – and the Olive Tree is a specific case in point here. Having headed up the brigade on the OT kitchen for a couple of years now, head chef Chris Cleghorn has brought charisma and lashings of that all-important 'wow' factor to a kitchen that's recently undergone a cutting-edge refurbishment, offering the whole hob team a sleek, streamlined, utterly cool (in all senses of the word) environment to work in. On the other side of the pass, the restaurant has undergone a makeover too, introducing a thoroughly modern ambience in which to enjoy the Cleghorn “experience”; today, the suitably inviting, plush dining room as seductive as the menus that Chris - undoubtedly one of the most imaginative, dextrous and downright exciting chefs working his magic in Bath right now - creates. Service is just lovely, too: restaurant manager Philip Hawkins deserves a Gold Star in his own right for leading a front of house team who make all-comers feel so welcome, with their every whim attended to even when the restaurant is buzzing. Meanwhile, the hotel's Old Q Bar offers an uber-stylish, quirky-but-glam oasis in which to enjoy a pre- or post-dinner snifter. While complacency may have its comfortable benefits, I can confidently report that even the most reliably good Bath institutions can – when they get it this right - benefit from a bit of shaking and stirring. Today, the Olive Tree represents modern Bath to the max, on all levels. Go forth and enjoy at your earliest opportunity.
- Wheelchair access ,
- Free wifi available ,
- Gluten free options
Monday - Thursday: 7pm - 10pm
Friday - Sunday: 12 - 2pm & 7pm - 10pm
4-7 Russel St Bath Somerset BA1 2QF