THE Olive Branch restaurant on Manchester Road, near Marsden opened over 18 years ago.
For any restaurant to survive that long it has to be doing something right – and that’s certainly the case in this Marsden eatery.
Husband and wife team Paul and Charlotte Kewley have built up a loyal following of discerning diners based, as it should be, on the quality of their food – both as it comes into the kitchen and as it leaves.
Over the years, the couple have hand-picked a selection of purveyors of fine foods and they’re so proud of their suppliers that they even feature them on their website.
Of course, quality comes at a price and if you’re looking for a cheap night out, then the Olive Branch is not the place for you. Although their other restaurant, Mozzarella’s, a buzzy, friendly Italian in the heart of Marsden, might be.
But you only have to look at the growth of Huddersfield’s farm shops to see that some local residents are prepared pay the price for premium quality, local food, despite the current state of the economy.
I’d heard a couple of recent good reports of the Olive Branch and had a London friend up for the weekend, so decided to give her a taste of the increasingly-promising culinary scene in the Colne Valley.
We booked a table for three online, getting a 15% discount, and headed out on a cold, snowy Saturday night. We started in style by sipping cocktails at the bar while we perused the à la carte menu.
The restaurant, highly recommended by the Which Good Food Guide, is housed in a traditional 19th century roadside inn with rooms above. The solid stone floors and walls exude an appropriate feeling of permanence and provenance.
The all-female waiting staff have been with the Kewleys a long time and are old hands at making diners feel comfortable.
Having selected an Australian Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (£19.25) from the thoughtfully-prepared and extensive a wine list, we were shown to our table in one of three dining areas and waited expectantly.
Within minutes an amuse bouche of shallot and thyme soup arrived. What can I say? It was exquisite. The hint of caramelised shallot blended and balanced beautifully with the delicate flavour of the thyme, it was memorable.
The quality of suppliers became evident as soon as we tasted the bread. This was no ordinary bread, it was the work of a craftsman who had spent years perfecting the recipe for a soft texture encased by a wonderfully crusty crust.
It came from a Ukrainian bakery in Bradford which the Olive Branch has used for donkeys’ years – presumably the Kolos Bakery on the website. The restaurant also uses The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite.
The prawns (from Sailbrand) in my tempura of king prawns starter with chilli dressing (£8.95) were as good as I’ve had in England.
Our London friend Caroline had a good choice of non-meat options and plumped for the light and fluffy Yorkshire and blue cheese soufflé.
The seared king scallops, served with celeriac purée, had been wafted over the skillet and served steaming to the table. They sliced like butter and melted in the mouth.
There was a range of steaks from Hinchliffe’s Farm Shop, but we selected the Dover sole special, a whole tender fish in a buttery sauce, filleted at our request.
The grilled sea bass on greens was delicious, succulent with a crispy skin which was completely devoured. Both dishes were cooked to perfection.
I have to confess I sent my pan-fried medallions of venison back to the kitchen. I’d expected small pieces of meat, round and pink, but instead got large pieces of rare venison.
The staff could not have dealt with the matter any better and a few moments later I was the proud recipient of a dish with small, pink pieces of deer in a port wine and peppercorn sauce.
VERDICT: Pricey, but worth it for a quality meal, the seafood was particularly good. Ask for details of their latest special offers.
The Olive Branch
Manchester Road, Marsden HD7 6LU
Tel 01484 844487
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 6pm to 9pm, Friday 6pm to 9.30pm, Saturday 5.30pm to 9.30pm, Sunday noon to 8pm
Disabled: Yes, by arrangement
The bill: £40 a head with cocktails and wine
Would you go back? Yes, we’ll look out for the deals