Pink Olive may have an odd name but houses a familiar ambition. Donald Reid sees if the dream has become a reality
The restaurant world consumes an awful lot of dreams. Everyone who has ever eaten out has discussed how they would do things better, and anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant has nurtured a blueprint for world, or at least neighbourhood, domination.
Pink Olive is one such project. It arrived at the beginning of the summer in the old Phenecia: a corner site, right beside Edinburgh University, a nice size, no need for anything too drastic and expensive when it came to smartening the place up.
Owner Kay McBride has worked for years as a manager for the Howies chain and at First Coast, and when the time and place was right to give it a go on her own, she had the plan well-honed in her head. ‘The idea was to make it look fresh and a wee bit funky but still homely and welcoming,’ she explains. ‘We’d provide the best product for the best price: honest, unfussy, real food with relaxed, friendly service.’
When an ethos such as this comes from the heart rather than a rather too-slick press release it’s an encouraging sign. McBride cranks up the charm further with her explanation of the slightly off-putting name. ‘It’s named after my Gran ‘Olive’ and the passion I share with her for all things pink. We opened on her 97th birthday and she flew up from Devon especially.’
In a number of ways, Pink Olive follows its spirited script. The interior has tasteful khaki paintwork, an eye-catching purple-striped banquette, single candles and real flowers to create warmth and ease. The menus are compact yet adaptable, competitively priced and studded with interesting looking ingredients. Mention of suppliers such as Gilmour’s butchers and Campbell’s fishmonger reinforce the local orientation.
The disappointment is that too many dishes underwhelm. Haggis ravioli is a lacklustre reinvention, particularly when a turnip velouté beneath it turns out to be a thick puree of the root vegetable, with barely an o of oomph. Points gained for offering the sustainable lythe (aka pollack) are lost by serving it with unseasonal asparagus, though the reason the dish eventually falls on the wrong side of the pass mark is a soft, thick coating of tapenade on the fish that’s billed as (and needs to be) a crust.
More clear cut is a veggie dish of heavy, solid gnocchi with bland, unappetising ricotta sauce. Even vegetarians disappointed by mediocre offerings down the years would sigh. Though there are dishes on the menu with more to commend them: smooth, kitchen-made chicken liver parfait, for example, and a popular grilled halloumi salad, there’s not yet enough evidence that the kitchen is delivering its side of the bargain in the potentially promising dream that is Pink Olive.
55–57 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh
0131 662 4493. www.ilovepinkolive.co.uk
Open Tue–Sat noon–2.30pm, 5–10pm,
Sun (breakfast/roast) 10.30am–3.30pm.
Two-course lunch £7.95; two-course dinner £16.95.
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