You may have seen other various reports dribbling out over the last month of the new restaurant on Market Square. The Oliver Royale officially opens today for lunch and dinner, with plans to be open late nights, including 2:00 AM on the weekends. It’s a part of the hotel, but also fronts Market Square in the same location Shono’s in City used to occupy. Breakfast may be offered at some point.
Several groups have been invited to enjoy a free meal to give the staff practice and to begin to spread the word about the new restaurant. Urban Woman and I were offered the chance to have lunch there yesterday, so we went to check it out. The lunch menu was made available and bar service was available for cost.
The place is visually striking, with an illusion of an arched dining room, burnished mirrors lining the side walls and a symmetrical bar facing both sides of the room. You’ll not find televisions, which delights me. Music played, but I could never make out a song clearly enough to so much as name the genre. The fact that the music is unobtrusive may be best if you want to carry on a conversation – which is much easier to do in this restaurant than in many downtown.
The staff greeted customers as they came and went (and they held my glasses for me until I returned) and seated us promptly. Service was good and we enjoyed talking with Mark and Emily, the couple at the adjoining table. The tables along the side are close enough that conversation between tables is easily accomplished, though some people might find them too close. They aren’t much closer than a number of other downtown restaurants, however.
I’ve posted the various menus here. As far as I can tell they aren’t available online, though they may be on the website when it goes live (it required a password when I checked).
We didn’t sample the cocktails, but I had a glass of wine and learned that only one vintner’s offering is available for each varietal. In other words, if you want Chardonnay, there is one available by the glass (Went Morning Fog Chardonnay, $7), the same is true for Cabernet Sauvignon (Josh Cellars Cabernet, $8). Otherwise, it’s a bottle purchase, which is fine if you have someone with which to share your bottle. Bottles range from $23 (Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay) to $80 (Donelan Walker Vine Hill Syrah), but most land in the $20 to $30 range.
The lunch menu is divided into “salads,” “bowls” and “handhelds,” with menu items ranging from $11 to $24. I had the “Mussels and Clams” bowl and found it to be very good, with a small portion which was fine for lunch. It’s also included on the dinner menu, but as an appetizer (“to begin”). Urban Woman had the burger which, at $15, is the most expensive regular burger on Market Square (you can spend more on a bison burger or a double burger). I also sampled it and liked it. We agreed the tomato-apple chutney gives it something a little delicious and different. She said the potato salad was very good and tasted homemade. I thought the Smoked Salmon and Mushrooms salads looked like good options for a future trip.
The dinner menu includes several of the lunch items, along with a few other items, as appetizers at the same price as the lunch menu. For those of us with smaller appetites, they may be enough in themselves for dinner. A couple of pasta dishes accompany a list of “meat and fish dishes.” Main courses range from $16 to $35 with most landing in the mid $20 range.
Four desserts are offered for $8 and they look good, but weren’t offered when we visited. We did have coffee and it passes my somewhat snotty taste test. I’m not sure what beans they use, but it isn’t Maxwell House, so that’s a good thing. The china is nice as are the tables. It feels like an upscale restaurant, which is a nice addition for downtown as most places are very casual.
It doesn’t have to cost like an upscale restaurant. A careful couple could eat appetizers and drink water for around $30 with tax and tip. If you want the full dinner experience and share an appetizer, each get an entree, share a dessert and each have a glass of wine, the tab could easily top $100 after tax and tip.
It’s a very pleasant place to eat and we enjoyed our food, so we’ll likely give dinner a try sometime soon. You may want to do the same. We agreed the feel is similar to 5 Bar (though on a smaller scale) and that’s a place that also feels a little out of the Knoxville norm. You can “like” them on Facebook and follow their progress. It’s a welcome addition to the square.