The Olive Branch, one of the UK’s first trendsetting gastropubs, is celebrating its 20th birthday this year.
The Olive Branch, in Clipsham, Rutland – Britain’s smallest county – was founded by Ben Jones, Sean Hope and Marcus Welford in November 1999 and is still seen as one of the country’s best pub restaurants.
It has long been a hit with reporters, who in our most recent guide described a “delightful country inn with a wonderful atmosphere and excellent menus sourced with local produce”. Most consider it worth a stop when driving up or down the A1.
We’re not alone in adoration. A host of other accolades have been bestowed upon The Olive Branch, including a Michelin star in 2002 (gone in 2013), The Good Food Guide’s Pub of the Year in 2014, and top billing in the Good Pub Guide just last year, a period when chef Nick Evans joined from the Northcote (although he left after just six weeks). FT critic Tim Hayward declared himself a fan only yesterday.
But a dining destination cannot stand still. For all its awards, the pub’s owners concede “the past 18 months have required some particularly hard paddling: staffing challenges, team changes and the growing issue of customer no-shows have conspired to give co-owner Ben Jones and the entire Olive Branch family plenty of battles to fight.”
One of the most significant changes is Hope – co-founder and also head chef – taking a back seat. He’s done his time and it is now down to Evans to re-energise the kitchen. It is clear the team, two decades on, is looking to ensure The Olive Branch continues to impress in the years to come, especially in an increasingly challenging industry. There are considerable changes at the pub and it appears everyone involved is hoping they pay off.
Jones says as much: “We’re busy with both regular and new guests, which is a testament to the team’s hard work.
“Naturally, the changes are not to everyone’s taste but the level of criticism and appreciation remains pretty much the same as it has always been.
“And the most important thing is that the team are all happy and enjoying what they create.”