New Moroccan proves moreish for Belper’s foodies

Restaurant owner, Jacqui Gilbert
Restaurant owner, Jacqui Gilbert

A new Belper restaurant has proved so successful in its opening few weeks it is struggling to cope with the demand for its spicy Moroccan cuisine.

Olive, named after owner Jacqui Gilbert’s mother and the ubiquitous Mediterranean delicacy, has been open one month and, despite buying no advertising at all, is booked up weeks in advance.

The Olive Moroccan restuarant has had a successful first month.

The Olive Moroccan restuarant has had a successful first month.

Jacqui, 51, and her business partner Rob Lowe, 53, both from Duffield, only met last New Year’s Day and have been astounded by their success so far.

She said: “I had to turn 40 tables down last Saturday night - the phone just rings all the time.

“Belper is the kind of place where something new opens and everyone is talking about it, but we were booked up even before opening night.

“I am working 17-hour days at the moment. I have thought about getting some help in but I want to make sure things are done the right way for the time being.

“I want people who come here to go home having had a great time.”

Jacqui says everybody who visits says how great the atmosphere is, and looking around the intimate and interesting surroundings it’s easy to see why.

The interior feels like a little bit of North Africa transported to Derbyshire with bongos, an impressive wrought iron chandelier and a massive, exquisite bed spread turned wall-hanging which dominates one wall.

But as well as the atmosphere, customers have also been very complimentary about the food as well.

“People like its simplicity and the fact that it tastes different to what they are used to,” says Jacqui.

Because of this she believes she often has to point people in the right direction on the menu with Tagines - slow cooked, spiced meat - flat breads and dips proving especially popular.

The restaurant currently employs three people but, if things go to plan, they hope to employ more in the future - possibly in additional premises.

And Jacqui says their success has not gone unnoticed among the other well-known businesses in the town either.

“We’re friends with the people at Fresh Basil who really want to help us and the reputation of Belper as a place for good food.

“And they have great olives as well!”

All around the world...

Born in Derby, Jacqui came back to the county two years ago having lived on a Moroccan olive grove for the previous 18 months teaching cookery to tourists.

“I lived in a little village called Tameslouht which had panoramic views of the High Atlas mountains,” she says.

“The colour of the hills and rocks there are just beautiful - I’m going back in May to get some spices - I know the best places.”

Before her recent stint in Morocco, she lived in Abu Dhabi and the Turks and Caicos Islands, working as a massage therapist and beautician to the stars.

And before that she even spent some time in the US capital, Washington DC, where she once met world-famous intern Monica Lewinsky in the beauty salon in which she worked.

Asked why she has moved around so much, she says: “I just can’t stay still!”

The food-lovers of Belper will hope that this time she finds a reason to stay put.