When Olive first opened its doors six years ago, it was known as the quintessential party place and was routinely slammed for its food. Now in its second innings, it is taking its food much more seriously. Does that mean that the old image of a party place will fade away? Even its name has changed from Olive Bar and Kitchen to Olive at the Qutub
One look at the menu and you know that Olive’s second avatar is serious about its cuisine. No doubt about that. It is going to take them a while to get exactly where they want to go, though. I had a wonderful Broccoli and Asparagus Soup (Rs 295) that wasn’t a soup at all, but a cappuccino, with an inch of delicious foam atop a tall glass. Why wasn’t it called a cappuccino on the menu? I’ve heard of up-selling, but down-selling? It’s certainly a first! Mediterranean panzanella (Rs 395) was almost too simplistic to be put on the menu of a fancy restaurant: just crusty bread, grilled batons of bell-peppers and reduced balsamic dressing. Yet it worked. Expect a lot more of these ‘simple’ touches to go with the carefully cultivated rustic surroundings.
I’m sure Olive’s Milano Paper Pizza, all of 18 inches, goes out to every table. It is the Italian country cousin of the Bukhara naan – it goes around a table of six easily. I chose Chorizo, Pepperoni, rocket (Rs 1145). It is certainly filling and the toppings are generous enough, but it is no contender for the Best Pizza in Town prize. For that, there would have to be a soft fusion between the crust and the topping. No matter – that’s a tough one to master…
If you’re going for a light meal, be advised and go for lunch. The menu is tiny but adequate, the place is peppered with the smart set and the focus is on the ambience rather than the food. Dinner is the opposite: it’s all about the food. First to arrive on the table was a delightfully soft, fluffy pan of bread with roast vegetables marinating in olive oil and Maldon salt. It is served to every table gratis.
We ordered Scallop and Pork Belly (Rs 595) which is expensive, considering the portion size (tiny). However, the pork was obviously cooked sous vide and the scallop was firm-textured in comparison. Olive’s new avatar subjects many of its meats to sous vide, and it shows. Whoever invented slow cooking at temperatures as low as 40 degrees Centigrade for 12 hours was a genius, because in that time, textures soften, flavours intensify and colours remain. The gravy was a mustard sauce with a punch in it, but not so much as to drown out the scallops and pork belly.
On par with my starter was my companion’s Bruleed Foie gras (Rs 595). Of course, foie gras is such a premium ingredient that it is difficult to spoil it. The so-called brulee consisted of blow-torching it enough to form a hint of a crust. A decadent wine poached prune went quite well with it, but I am still wondering about the presence of a quail egg: it didn’t seem to have any purpose on the plate, except to underline how premium all the ingredients were!
I only hope that Olive goes on as it has begun: with promise.
1 Style Mile, Mehrauli
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Open from 12 noon to 12 midnight
Cost of meal for two: Rs 3,000