The Olive Branch, Clipsham
For a village pub, The Olive Branch punches well above its weight. We head into the Rutland countryside for a memorable meal as it celebrates its 20th birthday.
I’ll admit it’s not the first time I’ve eaten at The Olive Branch. I was lucky enough to review it in 2013 when it held a Michelin Star. Fast forward a few years and I’m back to see what’s changed.
Ten miles from Oakham and 2 mins off the A1, the Olive Branch is set in Clipsham, a teeny tiny little village made up of honeypot houses and beautiful old yew trees.
Originally three farm cottages, the place was transformed back in 1999 by three friends and is still going strong 20 years on and what a good 20 years its been.
They won a Michelin Star just three years after opening and maintained it for 11 years and have gone on to win various other accolades inc of course, Muddy Award this year for Best Destination Pub (the certificate proudly displayed in the reception area) so we know it still cuts the mustard. The pub is a regular for in-the-know locals and foodie day trippers that make the pilgrimage. Not been yet? Ohh but you must.
Last year, Sean Hope decided to step back from his hands-on role as head chef. He can still be seen pottering around the pub and has ploughed some of his time into developing a pub allotment, poly tunnel and hen house across the road that supplies ingredients for the pub kitchen.
First impressions? As adorable as the first time I saw it!
The building is beautiful and such a big part of the village and it’s quite hard to imagine a grubby old boozer in its place. The pub is surrounded by a lush garden made up of gorgeous greenery and seasonal blooms.
As I pulled up for lunch on a busy Friday afternoon, I spotted Sean (co-owner) mowing the lawn across the road. This ‘hands-on’ approach just shows how much personal care and attention goes into running the business.
Inside everything is homely, charming and rustic – wooden chairs and tables, low ceilings, original wooden beams, exposed brick walls and gingham napkins (always a nice touch) and the pub shop is full to the brim with their own homemade jams, pickles and vinegars as well as carefully sourced wine – lots of it.
Funnily enough I was seated in the same spot as when I visited the first time round. Mr Muddy was with me then, but alas, not today (much to his disappointment). I was served a small chunk of bread to begin with from Hambleton Bakery down the road – this came with their own olive and herb butter.
The menu here changes pretty much every day and its always a good mix of pub classics to more sophisticated ones seeing as we’re on gastro pub territory. They’re still big on quality and provenance and there’s no pretension – something I noticed on my first visit too.
For oenophiles, this pub is a must! There’s almost 30 available by the glass, each with detailed descriptions and they’re not messing around; No cookie-cutter list with the same standard brands – it’s pretty impressive for a village pub – there’s a great selection of Italian, South African, Australian and American.
And, they do cocktails and really creative ones at that. I liked the sound of ‘Clipsham Cooler’ and ‘Taste of Topiary’ features local hedgerow and the pub’s own orange marmalade. It’s these little touches that makes this relaxed pub stand out from the rest. Happy birthday to you indeed!
Beautiful beds, lots of detail in the decor (roll top baths, antique beds) handmade pocket sprung mattresses, Egyptian cotton sheets and duck down duvets.
Wake up to gorgeous views of the village followed by a Full English breakfast in the barn.
Good for: Everyone really but even better for special occasions. The food is fab with enough crowd-pleasers to suit everyone inc veggies and vegans (ring up to request some alternatives). Worth the journey and you can stay over if you want to make a night of it. Those on a budget can nosh on the popular, set ‘Lunch for Less’ menu of 2 courses for £19.95 or £25 for 3 courses. Stunning in the summer when you can sit outside on the terrace and really cosy in the winter.
Not for: Those who want a bog standard pub grub and you may want to leave the kids at home if you’re dining here – it’s worth taking your time and enjoying the entire experience.
£££: Reasonable for the quality. Nibbles from £1; starters £6; mains £14-28; side orders £4.50; puddings £8.50-8.75. The gourmet set menu comes with £39.50 and you can choose to have it with or without matching wine/beer.
The Olive Branch, Main Street, Clipsham, Rutland. Tel 01780 410355