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The Olive Tree

Doing a great job in Sutton Green, near Guildford

This was our second visit to this fairly recent addition to the Surrey gastropub scene. In fact, for serious eating, these pubs with dining rooms are mostly better than the town restaurants, with a few exceptions such as Drakes' in Ripley and 2 to 4 in Dorking.

The pub has been nicely refurbished in pukka gastropub style - you know the sort of thing, clean off the older, more interesting bits and render the boring bits in a flat but bold colour, a sort of deep puce in the case of the Olive Tree. Maybe puce isn't quite correct, - naming colours was never my strong point - but the general ambience is certainly conducive to the expectation of good food.

The genial hosts, Gill and Rupert Ponsonby came from another local pub, The Jolly Farmer. where they had made quite a reputation for good hospitality. Sadly, we've heard that the Farmer is no longer so bucolic since their departure - but this is only hearsay. The Olive Tree's menu majors on seafood, which they do extremely well, both in sourcing quality fish, and in cooking it with the minimum of fuss so as to present the natural flavours.  

Our mussels (£6.80) came grit free and the broth left at the end was creamy and delicious, ten times better than the sandy, watery gruel at Frankie's much vaunted Knightsbridge eaterie. My chargrilled squid (£6.80) took me back to a seaside barbecue in Croatia before the troubles - it had that magic out door Mediterranean flavour. A grilled goat's cheese salad (£5.80) was generous and flavoursome with a well dressed salad. My wife had a second starter, a well constructed crab salad that tasted fresh and vivid.

Our friend had baked cod in a herb crust (£12.80) - the fish had those big soft flakes that are the hall mark of really fresh, quality cod. I went ashore for my main course and tried the calves' liver (£15.50), not quite pink enough for my taste, but certainly not ruined by overcooking. Other menu choices we agonised over included seared tuna, or chargrilled swordfish, monkfish Provencal, line caught seabass, all with their own individual garnishes and vegetables at prices either side of £15.00

The wine list has been done by  Bibendum, and a right good job they've made of it, with plenty to choose from at under £20 a bottle - even that excellent Faith Shiraz from St Hallet comes out at £19.95. For big spenders, a bottle of  Les Tourelles, the second wine of Pichon Longueville for £39.95 would seem rather a bargain.

This was a quick spontaneous visit, so puddings weren't on the agenda, but they looked most attractive and they all cost £4.80. For around £30 a head, with a sensible choice of drinks, you could have quite a feast. We recommend The Olive Tree, but you need to book, as it's very popular and we only just squeezed in without a reservation on a midweek evening.

Clifford Mould  September 2005

The Olive Tree
Sutton Green Road
Sutton Green, Guildford GU4 7QD

Tel: 01483 729999

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