Sunday, 28 April 2013

Where to Eat in Falmouth: Oliver's

Even though Oliver's has been open a while (1 year? 2 years? I don't even remember now...), I tend to think of it as "new." That's because, until last week, Sasha and I had never had an opportunity to eat there. We've tried on several different occasions, but the restaurant is always packed full of people eager to taste the highly-reviewed, locally-sourced Cornish fare on offer. Thanks to the cool weather, though, the tourists haven't yet started flooding into Falmouth, giving us an opportunity to finally snag a table--and not just any table, but a big table around which we could fit several colleagues and visiting academics. 

We had specifically selected Oliver's to cater (literally!) to the high foodie standards of our guests, and I am pleased to say that the restaurant did not disappoint. In fact, it may have knocked Samphire out of its #1 spot on my list of favorite Falmouth dining establishments, though of course I'll need to do some further research to verify that.

My companions began the evening with wine, but I started off with a pot of mint tea--I thought it might be wise to settle my stomach before cramming three courses into it. We were all given amuse bouches consisting of mushroom and garlic soup, which you can see in the teacups in the photograph above. I think it is safe to say that we would have been quite happy to consume an entire tureen of the stuff, which was amazing--rich, velvety, and flavorful, but somehow still delicate and refined.

For our first course, my friend Sarah and I chose the sweet potato croquettes, which were served with a side salad and beetroot relish. These were very tasty, and, to be honest, I probably could have made a meal out of them; this was a fairly substantial starter. Pretty much everyone else, including Sarah's husband Andy, began with razor clams and scallops:

Andy had previously tried razor clams while dining with us at The Shack, and he was not too impressed. This dish, however, made him rethink that opinion.

Because I was feeling adventurous, I decided to try venison for my main course, and I am so glad that I did. The meat was incredibly moist and tender. Having not ever cooked with (or eaten) venison before, I'm not familiar with how it is supposed to be prepared; I can't imagine that the version at Oliver's was anything short of the gold standard. The meat came with a root vegetable crumble, which was rather like a more posh, non-fried version of bubble and squeak, or even a rosti. The sauce that accompanied these items was one of the best I have ever tasted--including even the amazing ones we sampled at Nathan Outlaw's restaurant in Rock. Like the amuse bouche, the sauce was deeply rich and flavorful, yet still managed to be delicate and not overpowering.

Sarah had hake with mashed potatoes...

...while Andy had the "beef wrap" (also with an excellent sauce, I am told)...

...and Sasha had the sea bass:

Shaky, off-center photo courtesy of Sasha, who just wanted to tuck in to his food rather than photograph it!

Everyone else had a repeat of one of the above, and seemed more than pleased with the result. After all that, it's hard to believe that anyone could have room for dessert, but several were ordered. Unfortunately, people dug in so fast that I wasn't able to get any photos, though I did take a quick shot of my orange Cornish cream ice cream:

I realize that this is not the most stunning of photos, but the ice cream itself was very nice. The light citrus-y flavor was perfect for the final course, since it satisfied my sweet tooth without overwhelming my already full stomach and highly-stimulated taste buds. One day I'll have to save enough room to try Oliver's three-citrus (lemon, lime, orange) dessert sampler.

While waiting for the bill, I had a chance to look around the restaurant more closely. The overall vibe is "English country," though this is relatively subtle. Really, the place looks more like a cafe where you might grab a cup of tea or eat a quick lunch, than a gourmet restaurant where you would eat for dinner, so it could easily be ignored by visitors who are looking for somewhere larger and flashier. I love that it is so relaxed and unpretentious--it puts all the focus on the amazing food and doesn't waste time pretending that anything else matters.

I found out after we left that one of our servers for the evening was actually the restaurant's co-owner/wife of the chef. That certainly explains why she was so knowledgeable about all of the dishes and their ingredients. I had spoken with her several times over the phone as I scheduled and then re-scheduled our reservation; she was extremely friendly and helpful with both changing the time of our meal and adding more people to our booking. Just before I left, she thanked us for having such interesting conversation and keeping the staff amused with our chatter about weird biology, extreme stag dos, and eccentric academics. I'd like to think that we helped the Oliver's staff have as good an evening as we did, but I think the quality of their food probably far surpassed that of our anecdotes!

Oliver's Falmouth is located at 33 High Street, Falmouth, TR11 2AD, UK. Click here for TripAdvisor reviews (currently averaging just under 5 stars!).

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