Olivomare: Full marks for food, but... (August 2013)

If first impressions count, then things were not encouraging at Olivomare. Fortunately, however, the experience got markedly better and the food was indeed superb and a return visit justified. Admittedly our reservation was for midday, but arriving at three minutes to the hour, I certainly did not expect to see the restaurants’ chefs sitting on the steps puffing away on cigarettes in full view of prospective diners. Like my mother, my first thought was, I do hope they wash their hands before they start preparing our food… Message to the restaurant: if your employees have to smoke, then make them do it in a less public location. On entering, the interior of the restaurant felt decidedly sparse (notwithstanding the absence of diners), almost clinical in appearance and dominated by a garish pescine mural (per the restaurant’s name) all along one wall. We were lucky not to have to endure this though, since our reservation was for a table outside, which afforded wonderful people-watching opportunities, positioned to observe the denizens of Belgravia from our privileged location. Make no mistake, the food IS the main event here, the premise being a distinct emphasis on fresh ingredients used in dishes prepared to a high level of perfection. My dining comrade was a relative regular here and spoke highly of the menu. While he opted for his usual dishes, I had the luxury of perusing an almost totally fish-dominated menu (this is the idea; and there is another restaurant within the ‘Olivo’ mini-chain that operates the same principle with regard to meat; there is also a deli and a pizza place). My starter of sliced cured tuna with green beans and sundried tomatoes was beautifully presented with well-matched flavours. The main of crab meat linguine with garlic, chilli and fresh parsley was among the best I have had, with the latter ingredients being perfectly balanced. My comrade was similarly effusive about his dishes and I did look on somewhat enviously at his baked sea bass with black olives. We did not partake in wine, but the bill was still reasonable (at least by Belgravia standards).