The past few months have been a particularly turbulent time for the restaurant industry in Leeds.
Oliver has bid a sad farewell to a number of dining institutions from the city’s culinary scene.
First diners in Leeds were forced to bid a fond farewell to Anthony’s fine dining restaurant on Boar Lane.
Despite reeling from Anthony’s closure, diners were then dealt another crushing blow and made to part company with another of the city’s dining institutions when La Grillade closed its doors for the final time.
And Oliver was left in a state of anxiety wondering which of the city’s well-loved restaurants would be next for the chopping block.
But he need not have been so dramatic because in one quiet corner of west Leeds a local dining institution is certainly in safe hands.
The Olive Tree, in Rodley, has spent the last 30 years giving diners a classic taste of the Mediterranean with heartwarming home cooking.
And Olive Tree owner George Psarias is something of a Leeds dining institution himself.
Over the years the popular and well-loved restaurant has built up quite a reputation for itself.
George and his wife Vasoulla even took the Yorkshire Evening Post’s prestigious Oliver award for Outstanding Contribution to the Restaurant Industry a few years ago to celebrate their success.
So Oliver thought it would be a good chance to check back on the Rodley eatery to make sure the Psarias family weren’t resting on their laurels.
The Rodley branch opened in 1982 and is housed in an elegant Victorian stone-built manor house just off the roundabout at Rodley Bottom.
The charming building just oozes character – even though it is sandwiched between a car wash and a window company.
And despite being just a stone’s throw away from the bustle of the ring road you can almost be forgiven for thinking you were in a country manor in the middle of nowhere once you walk past the hedges.
My dining partner and I decided to book a table in advance and when we arrived on a packed Saturday night we were thankful for thinking ahead.
On our arrival we were greeted at the door by a friendly waiter who directed us up the stairs to the bar to wait for our table.
The bar area was cosy and already full of people when we arrived but within ten minutes we were guided back down the stairs and seated at our table.
Little did we realise what treats would lie in store for us when it transpired that our table was next to a make-shift “dance floor”.
Musician George Gongalides took to the bouzouki, a Greek guitar to you and me, and started to strum some traditional Mediterranean tunes next to our table while we were perusing the menu.
It certainly added to the atmosphere and you could almost be forgiven for thinking you had jumped on a plane and were on a Greek island.
A friendly waiter came over and swiftly took our orders and then within minutes the waiting staff took to the “dance floor” and impressed diners with some traditional dancing.
Oliver and his dining partner wondered if this was a special event but apparently live traditional Greek music on a Saturday night is just standard in the restaurant.
And I am pretty certain that even George Psarias took to the “dance floor” himself and impressed diners with his moves as they tucked into their meals.
My dining partner, however, was completely mesmerized with the guitarist’s skills and had to be reminded to continue his meal throughout the evening.
After a tough choice he settled for traditional Greek starter Kotopitakia which were filo pastry parcels containing cubes of chicken, peppers, garlic, white wine and oregano.
The three large parcels were crisp and delicate and packed full of flavour.
Oliver couldn’t help but sample a corner of one of the tasty rolls and can highly recommend them.
I decided to be slightly adventurous and settle for the fresh chargrilled octopus which had been marinated in olive oil, lime juice and bay leaves.
The pieces of octopus came served on a fresh salad and was simply divine.
The succulent cephalopod had a fantastic charred finish and left Oliver simply wanting more.
For mains my partner opted for the traditional Cypriot speciality Kleftiko which was priced at the higher end of the menu at £15.95.
The slow cooked joint of lamb was deliciously tender and simply fell away from the bone.
It was fair to say that Oliver was suffering from dish envy but when I started to watch my partner struggle through the mountain of lamb that soon faded.
I settled for the mixed souvlaki which was a skewer of lamb and a skewer of chicken served with the most delicious rice Oliver has ever tasted.
And while we were enjoying our taste of the Mediterranean we decided that it would be rude not to sample the dessert – even though our waistbands were telling us not to.
We decided to share classic Greek dessert called Revani and the delicious, but slightly heavy cake, was made from semolina and came with a yoghurt and cinnamon dressing.
The dish was a delight and it left us both feeling disappointed that our Greek gastronomic journey was over.
Overall our bill, which included a Mythos and a large glass of rose wine, came to a reasonably priced £71.
And before we left Oliver and his dining companion were even given a quick prep talk in how to play the guitar.
The electric atmosphere left Oliver wondering whether he could join in party spirit and maybe even smash a few plates Greek-style in the process. Or maybe not.
Address: 55 Rodley Lane, Rodley, Leeds, LS13 1NG
Opening times: Mon-Sat noon-2pm and 6pm - late. Sun all day from noon.
Tel: 0113 256 9283