After the summer we have just endured everyone should be entitled to a bit of Mediterranean sunshine, writes John Hindmarch.
Thankfully the taste of the Med is not too far away as The Swan Inn at Frankwell has been transformed into The Olive Tree Bistro and Bar
My wife Joy and I visited the bar twice over the August Bank Holiday weekend, the first time on a lovely Sunday afternoon to give the place the once over and hopefully book a table for the following evening.
Monday, you may recall, was the sort of grim, dismal English bank holiday we have come to expect.
We had booked for 6pm and arrived a bit early, just as a couple of families were leaving.
The transformation from what it must be said was a rather tired looking pub is outstanding. The front part of the bar features high tables and a semi-circular bar commands the area.
Dividing the rooms is a woodburning stove which took the chill off the area due to the grim Bank Holiday weather.
The plain walls are lifted by a series of Italian-themed murals painted by the Olive Tree’s landlady, Jane Smith. The tiled floors add to the laid-back European feel to the place.
The extensive outside dining area, which in the evening is lit by black lanterns, is the bistro’s jewel in the crown and evokes a southern European atmosphere which is dog friendly.
The alfresco dining season is drawing to a close, but I was told there are plans afoot to install space heaters for colder evenings.
The bar is a haven for real ale lovers. The beer selection includes three brews from the award-winning Three Tuns Brewery of Bishop’s Castle and an equally prestigious ale, Shropshire Gold, a guest beer which had rolled down the hill from the Salopian Brewery about two miles up the road in Copthorne.
The Three Tuns selection ranges from 1642, a good session beer to the full-bore Clerics Cure at 5.0 abv. I opted for the middle of the range pale ale, a light tangy beer which really hit the spot.
There is also the usual selection of lager and an international wine list from European to New World vintages.
Prices range from £14 to £25 and some are served by the glass. Joy chose a glass of Pinot Grigio as her aperitif, a light, chilled white which we remained with for our main course.
I decided to go for something from the extensive la carte menu and Joy for the tapas. The Olive Tree offers a choice of four tapas dishes from the hot or cold section for £12.95, exceptional value when you see the size of the portions. The tapas are served in individual terracotta-coloured slipper dishes.
She selected olives and bread as her starter while I opted for the Mediterranean-style fishcake. There were plenty of green and black pitted olives in her bowl, while on first impression I found my fishcake to be a bit bland.
However, after the first couple of mouthfuls the lemony and mild chilli after-taste kicked in and I was more than happy with my choice. The dish came with a portion of tangy mayonnaise which proved to be the perfect accompaniment.
For the main course I went for a fillet of lemon sole with salsa verde on a bed of crushed potatoes and broccoli, with a small salad garnish.
When our dishes arrived we were asked almost immediately if everything was alright. I pointed out that my plate was stone cold and hot food should at least be served on a warm plate.
Without a moment’s hesitation the waiter whisked the plate away and returned to say the chef was preparing me a fresh dish. No real harm done then, except Joy found herself eating on her own.
Despite this setback the tapas proved to be a hit, especially the calamari fried in garlic. The king prawns Pil Pil style were large and spicy and there must have been a dozen of them, but the show-stopper was the chicken and chorizo dish which was divine. I tasted some of this pungent chicken dish after my main course but back to the lemon sole.
Lovely, flaky white fish was pan-fried to perfection and enhanced by the tasty salsa verde, the crushed new potatoes were just right and the broccoli was cooked al dente. There really was nothing to complain about.
We were offered a choice of tiramisu or lemon cheesecake for dessert but declined, and went for coffee to finish off what was a most pleasant early evening.
As a pub enthusiast it’s always sad to see a boarded-up boozer. The new owners must be commended for their efforts in transforming this landmark pub and long may it continue.
The Olive Tree, Frankwell, Shrewsbury SY3 8JR.
Tel: 01743 383373.
Greek salad (£8.95)
Mediterranean fishcakes (£4.95)
Portobello mushrooms with goat’s cheese (£5.95)
Spicy chicken livers (£4.95)
Chicken and chorizo (£4.95)
Gambas pil pil (£5.20)
Chorizo with clams (£4.95)
Ensaladilla Rusa (£4.20)
Chickpeas with spinach (£4.20)
Jamon Serrano and manchego (£5.20)
Olive Tree olives (£3.95)
Mediterranean roast lamb (£15.25)
Rib eye steak (£16.95)
Mussels and French bread (£10.95)
Pan-friend lemon sole (£16.25)
Spaghetti vongole (£13.95)
Aubergine piccata Milanese (£8.75)
Friendly and relaxed
The bar is a couple of steps up from the pavement, but is all on one level so there shouldn’t be a problem.