A crucial part of the Christmas story is people making long journeys from the Middle East and finding themselves without accommodation. It seems in keeping with the season to review a Syrian restaurant in the UK.
The Olive Branch (1a Station Road, Wivenhoe, CO7 9DH; 01206 615741; website) is in a fairly unprepossessing building. Despite this, on a Friday lunch time on a cold, drizzly December day, there was nearly no room at the inn, or tables in the restaurant. Luckily, the customers were feeling positive, and strangers ended up sharing tables so everyone could fit in.
I (gluten and dairy intolerant) visited with my friend (severe nut allergy). When we stated our food needs, there was absolutely no sign from the welcoming staff that this was in any way a problem, and it wasn’t. The only physically uncomfortable feeling was eating slightly more than we should have because it was so delicious!
We ordered a platter for two, and were given the choice of vegan or vegetarian. My friend had a hankering for halloumi so we went with the vegetarian option. We were so eager to get stuck in that I forgot to take a photo so the platter is already looking a bit wrecked in the photo. Our platter consisted of hummus, falafel, marinated halloumi, tabbouleh, warak inab (vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), marinated olives, baba ghanouj, midammas (seasoned fava beans in a sauce), green salad, and pickles with flat breads or, in my case, toasted gluten free bread).
To accompany the platter, we had freshly squeezed orange juice and minty lemonade. The food was excellent. This is the sort of vegan restaurant to take a confirmed carnivore to. They will be so excited by all the different flavours, textures and spices that they will completely forget that there is no meat in the meal. The only things I can think of to improve this meal are that, although it was great to have gluten free bread available, it would have been nice if it was more like the flatbread normally served; this would be perfect. The only improvement to the restaurant would be moving to a slightly bigger building so more people can enjoy this fabulous food.