Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mothering Sunday Musings

The annual rite of Spring that is Mothering Sunday has just passed and we have come out the other side unscathed. Let me elucidate.

Traditionally on Mother’s Day, my family gather together and go out for a meal. Often it turns into a farce and invariably Dad loses his sense of humour.

For instance, a couple of years ago, Dad had booked us into what he thought was the restaurant of a swish Cheshire hotel. On arrival we were herded in to the aircraft hanger sized function room with about thirty other families. Each of whom seemed to have at least half a dozen babies and toddlers with them. Instead of a civilised family meal we were subjected to a children’s entertainer, a plethora of over-excited toddlers and a kiddies disco. Most of our party found the experience hilarious. It certainly gave us something to talk about but poor Pater suffered a sense of humour by-pass.

Last year, we gave our local branch of Strada a whirl. As is the norm on such festive occasions, greed had overtaken good service and they had booked far more people in than they could cope with and chaos ensued. A long wait to be seated, achingly long gaps between courses, orders forgotten and wrong items being served. Even I had my patience sorely tested, especially by the hugely patronising front of house manager. I’m sure she’ll think twice before speaking to a customer like that again!

So, it was with some trepidation that I opened Pater’s email revealing this year’s venue. It was like waiting to be told if you were the winner of X Factor.

We were off to Oliver’s, a small, independent restaurant in Woodford, serving contemporary British food. I breathed a small sigh of relief. No mass catering cock ups here. No hoards of small children bopping along to Bob The Builder. Fingers crossed we were in for a pleasant lunch.

There were only four of us this time; myself, my 18 year old daughter and my parents. Normally, there are at least nine of us but the others seemed to have found something more pressing to do this year.

On arrival at Oliver’s we were warmly greeted and shown straight to out table. The restaurant was virtually full but the atmosphere was calm and relaxed. Our drinks order was taken and a selection of home baked breads, flavoured butters and balsamic vinegar/olive oil dip were brought.

The menu was fabulous, interesting and importantly for me not overstuffed with choices. I hate being confronted with a menu the size of a telephone directory. There were five choices for each of the three courses. Brilliant!

To start I chose Goat's Cheese Crottins in a Herb & Brioche Crumb, Pear & Fig Compôte, Balsamic Reduction, Red Pepper & Ginger Coulis. The crottins were nicely crisp on the outside and smooth and creamy in the middle with just the right amount of cheesy sharpness. They were perfectly complimented by the subtle fruitiness of the pear and fig. The Teen chose Twice-baked Lemon, Oregano & Mozzarella Soufflé, Slow-roasted Tomato & Rocket salad. She had never had a soufflé before and declared it to be light and delicious. The parents were equally happy with their choices of Citrus Cured Salmon Gravadlax with Horseradish Crème Fraîche and Wild Mushroom, Asparagus & Confit Garlic Soup with Toasted Herb Croûton.

Goats Cheese Crottins

Souffle starter

For mains, three of chose a traditional roast dinner. Well, it was Sunday. I had succulent and juicy roast lamb while the parents chose the beef. Both joints were served with herb roasted potatoes, honey-glazed root vegetables, sautéed greens and a red wine jus. The Teen chose Pan-fried Chicken Breast on Linguine, Smoked Bacon, Roast Squash, Pepper & Vermouth Cream Sauce, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Parmesan Shavings. She enjoyed it so much she has insisted I try and replicate at home. Gulp!

Succulent Roast Lamb

Chicken Linguine

As a family, we all love our food but in particular we all have a sweet tooth, so the dessert course is the highlight of the meal. We weren’t disappointed with our choices at Oliver’s. Dad and I had Lemon & Mango Tart, Bitter Orange Reduction, Spiced Rhubarb Compôte with Pistachio Ice Cream. Lemon and rhubarb, separately or together are my two favourite sweet flavours and guaranteed to bring a smile to my face and this dessert certainly did that. Sorry, but we ate them too quickly to photograph.

The service throughout the meal was courteous and friendly without being over bearing. The restaurant itself is small, (approximately 40 covers) but perfectly formed with a cosy yet modern interior. The wine menu offers a good choice at sensible prices. Dad and I had a glass each of the house wine; me the white and him the red. Both were perfectly quaffable. I don’t profess to know much about wine, I just know what I like.

Replete and satisfied we left Oliver’s having had the perfect Mothering Sunday meal. Maybe this will become our annual choice.

Oliver’s Restaurant
547 Chester Road

Tel: 0161 440 8715

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