I see the crab as the chicken of the sea”, smiled chef Rachid Nabili.
He was referring to one of the most intriguing main courses at Olive, the new Mediterranean venue that opened on Ecclesall Road earlier this year.
The tempting sounding champagne chicken is an unusual mixture of both crab and chicken, in a luxurious creamy sauce containing Moet and Chandon.
Rachid added: “The crab is the chicken of the sea, so in this dish it is right to put it next to the chicken of the land.”
Rachid and his brother, Abdellatif, are from Casablanca in Morroco, although they’ve worked in Italy extensively and Abdellatif trained as a pastry chef in Switzerland.
Their new menu together has a heavy Italian focus, but with elements of Moroccan cuisine and the potential to venture to other countries in future.
They also previously ran a restaurant in Doncaster together.
“We did want to bring a little bit of the romance of Casablanca”, said Rachid..
“I love to cook Italian food , ever since I was young I have been making it. It has a wide appeal and I worked in Italy for 14 years.
“Our menu is mostly Italian with some standout Moroccan food and in future I am going to do some Spanish as well, there are endless possibilities.”
The site for Olive - named after the mainstay of Mediterranean cooking, and a niece of the brothers - used to be another Italian restaurant called Dino’s.
It was a family-run business with a warm welcome and reliably tasty dishes, plus the added appeal of bring your own wine. One of our favourites.
Rachid, his wife Freya Macdonald and Abdellatif have given the venue a more modern, fresh look and are hoping to attract local families while retaining the positives.
It’s good to see new independents opening on Ecclesall Road, rather than the restaurant becoming a chain or mini supermarket.
Freya said: “It’s a really good area and I think the area is changing quickly - the landlord told us a lot of students are moving to the city centre now so there are more families who are able to come back again and again.”
And Rachid said: “I call Ecclesall Road the mouth of Sheffield because of all the traffic coming through. We always come here for coffee and love it here,”
We visited for our review on a Saturday evening, and the S11 grapevine had clearly been effective - the place was packed to the rafters even though it was only 7pm.
Freya added: “We’ve had people back three or four times since we opened, and most people have heard of us from their friends.
“There’s been a lot of people phoning to say they have been told to come by a friend.”
Freya ended up serving us on the night and service was swift and friendly.
I wish we’d been warned about our choice of starter, though.
Feeling ravenous, we’d gone for the sharing option of four separate dishes for £21. What arrived filled the table and more than our stomachs - half of it ended up coming home,
There were - naturally - plump olives, a plate of mixed antipasti meats with cheeses and soft foccacia packed with herbs, to dip in oil.
The full size garlic bread with cheese and tomato was also stand out rather than some of the bland versions you can pick up in many restaurants, with plenty of fresh toppings.
Abdellatif has apparently been specialising in the stone baked pizzas and the dough was ideal.
In short, I’d recommend the starter but you may need more people to eat it.
There are plenty more options around the £6-£7 mark on the menu for those whose eyes aren’t bigger than their stomachs.
For mains, it had to be that champagne chicken.
The meat (possibly poached) was very tender, and topped with the fragrant crab, two large juicy prawns and a sprig of dill.
The sauce was beautifullly rich, with no discernible bubbles from the Moet.
He had ventured to the Morrocan side of things for his mains, with lamb cooked on the bone served in a traditional tagine for a bit of theatre.
It was a great size, with an intensely sticky sauce, plenty of flavoursome mash and some asparagus too.
We’d ordered sides of roasted vegetables and fries too, which proved to be more than enough.
There are plenty of Italian staples - pizza, pasta and risotto - on offer for the traditionalists, and a specials board changes regularly.
Oddly we headed to France then, for desserts.
Creme brulee had a golden caramelized top and a silken filling, with plenty of vanilla and lavender in both the brulee and clearly homemade, wafer thin shortbread biscuit.
His profiteroles were executed beautifully and thankfully proved to be a smaller serving size or he might have popped.
With a very good bottle of cabernet sauvignon, we paid £85.45, but you could halve that by taking your own wine (Sunday to Thursdays) and not having the gigantic starter.
Olive, 762 Ecclesall Road
Tel: 0114 266 7702