Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Olive Tree Restaurant, Celtic Manor resort, Newport review

The Celtic Manor is one helluva ugly building. It looks like a 1990’s office complex crossed with the hotel from The Shining. It really is an imposing sight as you enter South Wales and make the drive along the M4 en route to Cardiff. Fortunately, the interior of the Celtic Manor is much better but there’s still a corporate luxury feel to the resort. It’s just a little bit Brittas Empire.

Aesthetics aside, we’ve had some really good times at the Celtic Manor. A few years ago we had an excellent meal at The Crown at the Celtic Manor. Equally, we’ve enjoyed lazing around in the Forum spa on a couple of occasions. So when Mrs G and I were given a voucher for Sunday lunch at The Olive Tree restaurant as a wedding present, I excitedly began to plan which pair of elasticated trousers I’d wear to deal with the quantity of food I intended on eating.
The Olive Tree restaurant
Our table reservation was for 1pm and serendipitously this was the time the restaurant opened. Therefore we were one of the first tables to be seated meaning we got first dibs on the food whilst it was all at its very freshest. For £32.50, The Olive Tree’s ALL YOU CAN EAT lunch buffet features a selection of cold meat & fish dishes for starters, the mandatory carvery with all the trimmings for mains and if you’ve still got room after this blowout, there’s a veritable treasure trove of desserts. Oh yeah tea, coffee and chocolates are included too. Finally, there’s a good selection of reasonably priced wines by the glass. I had a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc (£4.50) whilst Mrs G had a smooth glass of Shiraz (£4.75).

Exercising a high level of restraint, I helped myself to a single plateful from the starters buffet. Highlights were an enjoyably retro prawn cocktail, a ham-packed (excuse the pun) ham hock terrine and some decent smoked salmon. Mrs G rated a broad bean salad and a potato salad but I didn’t bother because they didn’t have any meat or fish in them.

Barely coming up for breath we marched onwards with the main course. The friendly carver of meat was generous with the tranches of Usk valley beef, loin of pork and gammon he served. However as an extra safety net, his manager kept a watchful eye imploring him to carve more and more for each guest.  It certainly makes a change from the stingy wafer thin slices of meat I’m used to from the Toby Carvery.
The selection of sides
The meats were all excellent; well flavoured and tender. It was a bit of a shame the beef was served well done but fortunately it remained moist. The sides, with which I’d filled my plate to the point overflowing, were pretty fine. A cauliflower cheese was creamy and topped with an extravagant amount of gooey cheese, a slice of sausage meat was well herbed and the fresh vegetable selection was a reassuring vibrant green. However, there were a couple of average sides; parsnips were well seasoned but lacked crispness; roast potatoes were cooked but not particularly fluffy or crisp. Finally although the Yorkshire pudding was decent, it was a little dry, lacking the moist yet crisp battery goodness of the best examples.

Mrs G's plate of food. My plate was so full it was pretty unsightly.

I knew in my heart that by now I must be full but I didn’t want to give my stomach stretch receptors the chance to tell my brain. So once again we moved onto the next course in record time (we’d demolished 2 courses in about 40 minutes). Mrs G and I managed to cover off pretty much every dessert on offer (all in the name of research for the readers of Gourmet Gorro). There wasn’t a single bum note but the highlights on my part included a tarte au citron with perfectly crisp pastry and a sharp lemon filling; chocolate profiteroles packed to bursting with Chantilly cream and lastly a bowl of apple crumble with homemade custard. The apple was soft & sweet with a hint of cinnamon whilst the thin crumble topping was crisp and stodge free.  Mrs G's highlight was a well balanced retro mini trifle. I thought it was good but reckon it could have done with a bigger glug of sherry.

With my elasticated waist band now taut, we nursed cups of tea and coffee which came with some rather nice ginger truffles and fruit + nut chocolates. We really enjoyed our Sunday lunch at The Celtic Manor. Although £32.50 a head is a fair amount of moolah to spend on a Sunday lunch, based on the quality and the quantity of the food you can eat, I definitely think it’s worth it for a treat.

It’s worth noting the Olive Tree is a really family friendly place; people of all ages and generations were tucking into plates groaning with food. Family birthday parties, romantic couples, post wedding hangover lunches and old friends were all getting stuck in at the buffet. 

The details:
The Celtic Manor Resort, Coldra Woods, The Usk Valley, Newport, South Wales, NP18 1HQ 

Telephone: +44 (0)1633 413 000 

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