My Shrewsbury Food & Drink writer Laura Hadland reviews the new Bevan's Neighbourhood Kitchen in Frankwell - formerly The Olive Tree
It’s always exciting to see a new place to eat in town. A banner over the door at 85 Frankwell tells us that Bevan’s Neighbourhood Kitchen is now open, and business is already brisk. But this is the continuation of a much older story, one of local lads starting a new chapter.
Many will fondly remember the simple but well-executed tapas at The Olive Tree at 85 Frankwell. The venue was taken over by Sam and Becky Bevan in 2014 and they built a great reputation for tasty, keenly priced food. Now, the business has taken a whole new direction. Sam has picked up the reins, front of house, joined by his brother, Mike, in the kitchen.
Sam and Mike Bevans have 'reframed' former restaurant the Olive Tree as a home of British comfort food
The decision to turn the page and reframe the business happened when Sam became disillusioned with sourcing Spanish ingredients for his Mediterranean menu.
“The Olive Tree started off really adventurous and then it became a bind,” Sam tells me. Having to put in big orders with faceless companies in Mainland Europe meant that he wasn’t able to keep supporting the local producers he had dealt with for twenty years. Shropshire produce has always been the cornerstone of Sam’s career, right from his first restaurant job.
“We decided to go back to British comfort food,” Sam says simply. A glance at the menu shows that this is no gimmick. Pork belly from Wenlock Edge, grilled cheese toasties made with Moyden’s cheese and Shropshire Ice Cream are just some of the familiar names that jump out at me. Sam knows all the people behind these products, he can even tell you how their kids are getting on.
I settle on Shropshire Blue & Port Pate to start. It is served with a glistening heap of red onion jam and three crisp toasts. The vegetarian pate has a lightly whipped, mousse-like quality, ripe with deliciously pungent blue cheese earthiness. The fruity sweetness from the port is a backnote that is brought out beautifully by the sticky onion accompaniment. Smearing the whole lot on thin, crunchy toast adds a variation in texture that brings the whole dish together.
In many ways, it’s the perfect starter. The dish sits lightly in the stomach but delivers a huge punch of flavour. It awakens your appetite and leaves you primed for more. The pate paired beautifully with a glass of Shore pale ale, a collaboration between Newport’s New Brew and a local tattoo artist. Hanumantra’s logo emblazons the can - and is visible from my table on the shop window just a few metres away from Bevans. The beer is malt-led and its caramel tones blossomed alongside this starter.
Pies are the real heroes at Bevans!
The hero of our story is the pie menu. Both Sam and Mike have years of experience making wholesome, filling pies from scratch. Mike has brought Henderson’s Relish and homemade mushy peas to the table too, a legacy from his time working the pass in Sheffield pubs. When I arrive, there is a chicken, bacon and kale pie on the menu. It has sold out by the time I leave.
The pie is a thing of beauty, particularly for a displaced Northerner like myself. The thick, deeply browned hot water pastry gives it a feeling of robustness. But cut through the pastry, and the filling is delicate, homely. You can easily pick out the individual ingredients. There is not a lot of sauce within the pie to bind the filling, but it is not required thanks to the ocean of gravy that surrounds it.
Laura is an award-winning beer-writer after all - you'd expect her to comment on the ales!
I was pleased that the chicken was moist and succulent to eat, with a seasonal edge added by the kale. The only slight disappointment was the bacon, which I felt had lost some of its flavour in the cooking. I hoped the small lardons would be tiny flavour bombs, adding an occasional punch of savoury saltiness, but they were actually rather bland.
I can’t say I was particularly bothered - my enjoyment of the pie was not impeded. The meal as a whole was a delight. Those homemade mushy peas were soft and yielding against the crumbling pastry. A stack of mighty chips were in attendance - great slabs of potato that made a satisfying crunch when the knife went through, but were fluffy and soft in the middle.
Shropshire rum and raisin ice cream and chocolate torte with juicy cherries sealed the deal
By this point, I felt fuller than the flood defences in January, but I ploughed on regardless. A pristine slice of rich chocolate torte, accompanied by juicy cherries and a scoop of Shropshire rum & raisin ice cream was worth pushing on for. The silky bitterness of that dense torte coated my mouth, then was cut through by sweet fruit acidity. Nothing fancy, just simple ingredients allowed to tell their own story.
That sums Bevans up really. The food is robust, local and wholesome. Not pretentious, just letting the ingredients shine. The atmosphere is light and inclusive - it’s the perfect place to bring the family. Stop for lunch, pop in for a drink, pick up food to take away. Sam, Becky and Mike are so proud of what they offer, they have finally put their name on it. I will certainly be following the Bevans’ story closely.
- Bevans Neighbourhood Kitchen and Bar, in Frankwell, Shrewsbury - SY3 8JR - is open from 9 am Tuesday to Saturday.