'We've only been here for four months,' he said, dark eyes sparkling with pride as he surveyed the restaurant around us, which had clearly endeared itself to the local population: air heavy with jubilant chit chatter over the gentle clink of glasses; waiters and waitresses bustling past with eagerly anticipated orders.
We entered The Olive Grove via a charming courtyard that looked like Christmas: the perfect spot, I imagine, for dreaming and scheming over a bottle of chilled Prosecco in the summer, a border of gnarly olive trees sedating the busy Brighton streets.
The inside of the restaurant had the same cosy feel. As inventor and chief champion of #banthemainlight, I adored the atmospheric lighting. It all felt very romantic: the kind of lighting that makes you feel like you might actually look quietly beautiful in that dress, the kind of lighting that marries with delicious wine, opening hearts and lubricating conversation, or in my case, that ensures you'll bestow your entire portfolio of compliments upon your guest before you've made it through the first dish.
We were treated to a feast served in handsome ceramics, enjoying pitta bread and a range of flavoursome dips, a selection of vegetarian small plates, a pungent but delicious champagne and truffle risotto, gorgeous, spicy, marinated chicken breasts, lasagne, feta dusted chips, and a bowl of Greek salad so colourful it could make a rainbow envious. My favourite nibbles? Undoubtedly, the deep fried, homegrown stuffed olives; they were mouthwateringly creamy. Take my money and put them in my mouth on a daily basis, please and thank you.
Dessert was a trio of the restaurant's most popular treats, including natural Greek yoghurt finished with a weave of sweet honey and a sprinkling of crunchy nuts, and rich, marbled chocolate served with sliced banana.
I love good food, and the food was bloody good. But what I love more than that, is the dining experience: hosts who welcome you like old friends, chefs who tend lovingly to their creations, waitresses who laugh and duly oblige to roll you out of the door as you cradle your food baby. Warm smiles. Warm hearts.
That's what I loved about The Olive Grove the most: this inherent passion and pride, the evident love of the rustic hideaway they've created. It's easy to imagine the team's celebratory fist pumps as they mastered those incredible stuffed olives (please put them in my mouth!), and the sense of relief that washed over them as their very first paying customer sprung through the door. Love. Love of food. Of hospitality. Of the Mediterranean adventure.
And what an adventure it was. I'll definitely be back.