The Sweet Olive - work lunch in a traditional French English Gastropub


Scallops at the Sweet Olive French English Gastropub

Today I had lunch with my colleagues at an interesting gastro pub called The Sweet Olive in Aston Tirrold in South Oxfordshire. This is were Tim Henman lives for those of you who know who Tim Henman is.

We were celebrating the fantastic career and retirement of one of our wonderful global colleagues. She came to the UK to say goodbye to us. We made her do some work for us in the morning and then had a lunch with a small group of people who had worked with her the most. In the afternoon we had a celebration with cakes for the whole office.

We’re great with cakes and celebrations in our company. They even did a surprise send-off for me last summer before the wedding with a sweet speech from my boss, presents and lots of cakes. One of my team had even taken the time to craft our initials for the table. I was really moved. No wonder we are officially on the list of UK's Great places to work! Although maybe it’s not just about the cakes.

The Sweet Olive is a favourite restaurant of one of our team who lives in the next village and I can see why. It's wonderfully laid back as only an old-fashioned  English country pub can be, the building is ancient and atmospheric and they serve cask ales (I never drink cask ales, so I don’t even really know what that means, but I thought it sounds good and probably means something to some people). It’s run by a French chef and his business partner and they serve really lovely French food. Not the pretentious truffle galette, frog buttock beignet and foam of the sacrebleau kind, but beautifully prepared traditional French food that respects the ingredients and is prepared with d’amour.

Apparently it’s a bit pricey, but boss picked up the bill, so I didn’t have to worry about that today. I just checked online now and their starters are around £9 and mains around £20. Portions were reasonable, but not large. So I leave you to judge for yourselves whether you think it's a price you'd be happy to pay.

I went for the daily specials for both starter and main although their standing menu is full of great choices as well. I had the asparagus with a duck egg for starters. It came with soldiers which I thought was a nice nod to the English – I don’t know, maybe they do Les Soldats in France (for anyone who doesn’t know what they are, they are toasted bread cut into strips that you can dip in a soft-boiled egg). Very English I think, one of my step kids loves that and I cook him soft-boiled eggs specifically and then he meticulously removes the crust and cuts the toast into strips, dips them into the runny yolk and leaves the egg white and every time my husband tells him off for leaving the whites and what a waste and don’t boil him those eggs when he’s not eating them. And then the next time I will boil him a runny egg again because I think that’s quite an innocent luxury to provide to a growing boy.

The asparagus was obviously perfectly cooked, but it hadn’t been seasoned at all, and the duck egg was also not seasoned. It was still in the shell just cut open on top (and maybe could have been runnier). There was no salt on the table and you don’t dare to ask for salt and pepper in places were the chef is French because they will take it as a personal failure if you are not happy with their dish as it’s served and either slap you in the face or hang themselves from a tree on the village green / common to be found by a dog walker the next morning. I mean I love dogs and would love to have one, but I’m really freaked out by the likelihood of finding all these corpses lying around the woodland and hanging off trees.

Asparagus and duck egg at the Sweet Olive French English Gastropub

My brother once found a corpse on his run on a spring morning. Joggers are the other big target audience for corpses. It was floating in the sea near the shore looking like it had spent the winter months under the ice and just come up looking quite off-colour and bloated. He called the police and they told him to give it mouth-to-mouth. You can bet your ass he didn’t.

What completely saved the asparagus dish was the Hollandaise sauce. That Hollandaise sauce – I could have eaten a bowl of it, unfortunately there was only a tiny pot. It was amazing. Possibly the best Hollandaise I have ever had and a real inspiration for me to get amongst the Hollandaise myself. Husband is not a massive sauce fan generally, but I will definitely do one this weekend. I have got some sole in the fridge for tomorrow, so maybe with that.

My main course was Scottish scallops with pea pure and potato something cakey thingy with rocket on top and a creamy splash of something. That's the problem with ordering a daily special in a French staffed restaurant, I only got half of what the waiter was saying even after two repeats. But whatever it all was, it was truly delicious. The scallops were faultless and the pea pure was fantastic. And even though both dishes were quite dainty, for me the serving sizes were perfect. Contrary to what it may sometimes sound like, I don’t eat massive amounts of food at one go, so for me this was perfect.

Some of the guys went for a Moroccan lamb shank with mashed potatoes which I imagine husband would go for if we went there. That dish was a very nice size for someone with a bigger appetite. And there were other robust sounding dishes on the menu which I imagine would feed your average man.

We didn’t touch the wines as it was working hours and we’re all driving. Also we skipped the dessert because we had to be back in the office in time for the cakes! It’s a tough job. But I’m sure they do divine desserts.

For anyone visiting the area I can full-heartedly recommend The Sweet Olive. Apparently they get quite busy so make sure to book.

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