- Atmos 5/10
Olive Albero Independent Italian
Olive Albero in One Paragraph:
We were a bit disappointed by Olive Albero, but that may well have been because we visited early on. Hopefully things have settled down now and all’s running well. Try it for yourself! Lunch for under a fiver.
The Longer Read:
Olive Albero (Olive Tree) is in a ‘difficult’ location for a restaurateur. It’s just out of the very centre of town in Albion Street. Previously the restaurant at this site was Munroe’s, a Southern African restaurant. They got into some unspecified rumble or other with the leaseholder of the property and disappeared. So, whilst you’ll now have to look elsewhere in town for your fix of zebra or ostrich, we were excited to see a new Italian restaurant come to Cheltenham.
The location is tricky because it’s on the inner ring road circuit, so no easy parking and, oddly, not much passing/walking trade. For any restaurant to do well here, it needs to shine. Le Champignon Sauvage is the model, in terms of making a success despite location.
We were hoping that Olive Albero would be great but left a little disapointed. We wanted it to be great because a good local Italian restaurant is a wonderful thing. Also because it’s a new venture. And because it’s an independent. The website mentions that Olive Albero is a ‘Rustic Italian Family Run Restaurant’ which strikes all the right notes.
Decor at Olive Albero
The decor still bears a few traces of the restaurant’s days as Munroe’s. There is some animal print type paintwork by the door and a picture of some ‘elephants at sunset’, in the Ladies’. Ciao! That’s a little bit disorientating but forgiveable in a new venture – cash disappears quickly when setting up a new restaurant. Otherwise the decor is pretty anonymous, sadly no sense of Italy or real ‘family’ feel about it.
The shortest wine list I’ve seen for a while (3 whites, 3 reds, 1 rose, 1 sparkling) included a couple of South African (natch) options, with the rest being from Italy. A Ca De Lago Cabernet Sauvignon was fruity and mellow, fairly priced at £15.95. Chef sent out a couple of tasty bready snacks. A starter of shared Antipasto All’Italiana (£9.95 for two) was generous, with Bresaola, Parma ham and salami cuts plus olives, mozzarella and artichokes in oil. So far so good.
Service was prompt and friendly.
Main courses include pizza, pasta dishes, Chef’s specials and risotto dishes. We ordered a Lasagna (£8.95), which is a good basic test of any Italian restaurant. Also a Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese (£9.95).
Pasta Dishes at Albero
The tagliatelle was OK, although it’s ragu was a little greasy. The Parmesan mentioned on the menu didn’t turn up and this was the only Italian restaurant I’ve ever been in that didn’t, rather ostentatiously, offer a pepper grinder. The pasta used was dried, as opposed to freshly made, which is OK, but then again fresh pasta is a good reason to go out for Italian food. So maybe a trick missed.
Lasagne at Olive Albero is, frankly, a bit unusual. It’s served in a shallow pan with béchamel sauce offered seperately in a small jug. Béchamel is always bland, more of a mouth-feel than a taste thing. I couldn’t see any advantage in not building it into the dish. Also it was cold.
‘Shallow’ lasagne is just not a good idea IMHO. Lasagne is a rustic Italian classic that thrives on generosity in presentation. A good lasagne is filling comfort food, with layers of texture and taste. The menu mentioned dressed salad leaves which also didn’t turn up. We might have been alerted to the shallow lasagne if our Italian was better – it’s described as ‘Lasagna’ on the menu. In Italian, lasagne is the plural of lasagna, the word for a single sheet of the flat rectangular pasta.
Cheesecake (£4.95) was, I’m reasonably sure, from a wholesaler and wasn’t great. That’s in the Italian tradition, where it’s quite usual to quit the restaurant at pudding time, in favour of the local ice cream shop of the moment. Chef had decorated the plate a bit and that, plus the partially deconstructed lasagne, gave me the impression that maybe he is happier being creative with his food than concentrating on turning out rock-solid Italian classics. On the other hand, rock-solid Italian classics are what most people go to an Italian restaurant for.
Coffee was so-so.
I so wanted this restaurant to be great and it gives no pleasure to advise that we found things a little bit average. However, please note that we visited very soon after opening. Maybe they just need time to find their feet. Service was friendly and willing – several people have noted that the waitress asks you to give the number of the dish when ordering, rather than name it. Which is a bit odd.
Pizza, risotto or pasta at lunchtime is inexpensive, and we’d love to be more positive – try their lunch for £4.99 and tell us what you think.