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No Love for Todd English?

I noticed on the Boston board that Todd English and Olives in particular seem to get more bashing than praise. Perhaps some of his places are lacking or what have you, and he is busy traveling to his restaurants around the country, but what is the word on Olives? I know its not 'the' place in Boston as it was a while back, and it had a few rough years, but is it coming back into stride again? Anyone have recent trips there?

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  1. No recent experiences, but the Charlestown location had problems with the board of health. English is a great salesman, but the actual product is pretty lame.

    1. not a big fan of Todd English and the last time i went to Olives was in NYC Union Square The W...wasn't impressed. you either hate him or love him and personally i think he is overrated.

      1. I personally put him in a class with Jim Koch of Sam Adams. He started at good food revolution here, graduated some great chefs but now is spread far too thin to make an impact. When he was the only game in town, Olives was at it's best quite good and innovative.Now with so many options, I'm sure it's still good, but is it great? Doubtful. I haven't been in 10 or so years.

        1 Reply
        1. re: trufflehound

          I don't get how that relates to Jim Koch. Sam Adams is still innovating and making an impact on the craft beer world.

        2. Wouldn't leave my money with him. Unless you want to buy smile, good looks and an overabundance of ego go elsewhere. Boston has GREAT restos that serve great food by people who care. Not interested in fair food served with attitude by a cartoon character.

          1. I've never had a bad meal at Olives in Charlestown, but I'll be honest I have my favorites that I crave and they never let me down. to start: That presentation of froccacia bread with oils/garlic and olives. I just absolutely love his tuna ta ta appetiser. And I most always get a good lamb or steak dish that is very very good.

            I do strongly believe you can't continue to be successful when you start to spread yourself too thin though. I saw him recenlty selling and promoting his line of pots/pans. I like Ming's (Blue Ginger) philosophy - I want to do it right and by doing one restaurant and only a couple other small ventures, I can concentrate on doing it right - otherwise it starts to slip. (it was something like that, pllus his family is high on that list too)

            1. I used to live in Boston when Olive's Originally opened in Charlestown...in fact my ex threw a Milestone Birthday party for me there. It was 'Over the Top'.....now I frequent the Olive's in Las Vegas and I have to say...it does bring back memories!
              The Vegas Olive's is on par w/ the original.....The only thing missing is not seeing Todd and Olivia together and the quaintness of the Storefront restaurant!

              1. Olives was great when English actually cooked there; now it's run by a revolving door of exec chefs. It just had another change recently, with Todd Winer departing for the Metropolitan Club. Not that these folks aren't talented, but the place has really become a crapshoot, which is tough to bear at its prices. I get dragged there for business entertaining a couple of times a year; the food over the past eight years or so has been annoyingly uneven, at times verging on gross. A great shame, as it used to be amazing, a favorite.

                I thought Kingfish Hall was okay despite an ugly space in the execrable Quincy Market, but it also suffers from horrible inconsistency. Bonfire, his other big place in town, is terrible, but it was such from day one (except for its bar snacks, which are pretty good.) I quite like the pizza at the Charlestown and Beacon Hill outlets of Figs.

                Give your money to young chefs who focus more of their energies on cooking than marketing. Mr. English crossed that line about ten years ago.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  I'm pretty over the chains he's opened but I also enjoy the pizza at Figs very much. I've never had a bad pizza or bad service at either location.

                2. I am actually a huge todd english fan. I have eaten at many of his restaurants both in Boston and elsewhere and I have to say that of all of them the ONLY one that i didn't think was great was Bonfire. I have had GREAT experiences at Olives, although I will admit that a friend had a terrible one there not too long ago. I love the pizza at figs. I think of all his restaurants that is the best. Kingfish is good. Last time iw as there a few weeks ago I had the miso black cod and it was actually amazing! Hadn't been there in quite some time but the food was actually very good!

                  I think that the problem with todd's restaurants is inconsistency. You can go there at times and have a GREAT meal and then other times its just okay. If you had to pick one of his restaurants to eat at, i would say go to Figs. Its the most enjoyable!

                  1. Has anyone been to Bonfire recently? I've seen old posts, but i'm trying to find out whether food has improved.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Lotus7

                      if anything it has gotten worse. used to be good, but now its just blah.

                      1. re: NiKoLe1625

                        I was there a month or two ago and was not impressed at all. I got the paella and it was very, very salty. I couldn't even eat it all. I do love Todd English though and have enjoyed his other restaurants.

                    2. todd never really cooked at kingfish. he was already globetrotting and david kinkead (now of sibling rivalry) got kingfish up and running. bonfire must have a true sweetheart deal because i've never heard anything faintly positive about the place.

                      bostonians have a high sense of loyalty, and get their backs up when it's not repaid. remember nomar? the city grew the olives/figs empire from a tiny storefront to several locations. people stood in line for hours and endured being forced off their tables so olives could do 3 turns on the weekends. they see their reward now is a guy who has left his wife, morphed into a brand and is rarely in town. you're more likely to see him at a sox game than in whites.

                      the consistency has dropped dramatically with nobody really at the helm. short-sighted budget cuts caused health dept. woes and structural failures.

                      i never was a fan of his *as much as possible* on the plate style of cooking, and found the prices too steep to tolerate the unevenness of my dinners there. those factors more than his ego stopped me going long ago.

                      1. I am personally a fan especially of Figs. Have had excellent meals at Olives, Kingfish and, believe it or not, Bonfire(but not in some time). His Figs restaurant in Wellesley was a wonderful family restaurant with great consistent food, wonderful staff and it is sorely missed. But most of all, I love his cookbooks, because they actually contain great recipes that work. alot of thos celebrity chefs publish cookbooks with recipes that turn out horrible or are impossible to make. Both the Fig's Table and the Olives cookbook are very good. e.g. his eggless ceasar salad dressing. True he has a big ego but most celebrities do!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: emilief

                          i too have had great meals at all his restaurants and tend to enjoy his food a lot!

                          1. re: emilief

                            I have enjoyed meals at Figs and at Kingfish Hall as well. To be honest, I'd have enjoyed both places whether they had Todd English's name attached to them or not. I doubt he was personally preparing my meals at either location, but the chefs he selected seem to know their stuff, and the service was friendly and professional.

                          2. I think the best part of the English Empire was his exwife Olivia. Without her style he would be just another chef. His ego and lack of due attention to his many enterprises has resulted in mediocrity. Too bad he can't come down to earth and go back to his roots.

                            1. I'm a huge fan of Figs and their pizza. I haven't tried any of his other restaurants, but I managed to get reservations to Olives for RW. The menu for RW looks pretty good imo.

                              1. Figs Pizza is Delicious! Esp the fig and proscuitto...though I don't know much about the other spots....People do seem to have very strong opinions about Todd English it seems! I really like his cooking show-the one where he travels- on PBS.

                                1. My experiences with Todd and Olivia have caused me to never (even for business) enter their restaurants again (Olivia is still part of the business even though the marriage is no longer). Todd is the creative mind in terms of food and Olivia is the business brains. They are both very dependent on each other's respective talents.

                                  They are also two of the most ego driven, narcissistic people you will ever have the displeasure of meeting. As other posters have said, in the beginning Todd's food was cutting edge and truly wonderful. Todd is never at his restaurants (he lives in NY now) and Olivia is too busy being her. They have lost sight of the passion for presenting well executed meals.

                                  1. I have had some really excellent meals at Olive's in Charlestown. But, the last time we went sometime last fall, everybody in our party was dissapointed. We were a party of 7 and ordered different things, so it wasn't just one dish. The quality was off and something was missing that usually makes a meal there very special. I don't know if this represents a general downturn in quality, or it was a bad night or what. I would give them another chance, though.