With a deep love for Spanish food and fond memories of travels to Spain, I was excited to taste the new summer menu at long-standing restaurant Olé. The seasonal menu is available in addition to a generous array of classic staple dishes that have been coming out of the kitchen for over 20 years.
Chef Antonio Martin has been busy creating this special seasonal menu of Basque and northern Spanish dishes for his Hong Kong customers, lots of whom are loyal and regular – expect to see the restaurant pretty full most days for both lunch and dinner services.
Sitting at Olé on a slightly wet Hong Kong afternoon, I became lost in the charming Spanish-style surrounds: the aged orange walls, the classic oil paintings and painted terracotta that decorate the walls and the greenery that lines the window ledges. It feels classic and homely, with the perfect amount of Spanish charm.
To begin, we received a selection of complimentary small bites: some beautifully tender meatballs in tomato sauce, a garlicky potato salad, crusty bread and a wonderful lemon-yellow olive oil – Spanish, of course.
After these teasers, we moved on to the some seriously moreish pintxos ($120), a Basque term for small pieces of bread with toppings, usually eaten in bars as accompaniments to drinks. These were crisp little rounds topped with blood pudding and piquillo pepper. I’m a massive fan of what in England we call “black pudding”, and I loved the acidity of the piquillo pepper topping.
Following on, we were served the finca pascualete, or mini torta cheese ($88) – a cheese made from Spanish goat’s milk. Served with a small wooden spoon, its texture was incredibly smooth and creamy, and it tasted nutty, with a slight floral aroma. Served with the cheese was a house-made tomato chutney, which was sweet and sticky – the perfect accompaniment. I could have happily eaten this all by myself with a glass of Spanish wine. Cheese feels like a real treat in Hong Kong, and the price of this dish is a steal.
Next came the kokotxas, or codfish tongue ($210), which also includes the throat of the fish. It was lightly cooked with white wine and parsley, then finished with shelled cockles. I thought the flavour of the tongue was beautiful, and I love the idea of creating a dish using parts of an animal that are often discarded. However, I did slightly struggle with the slimy texture, but I’m told that here in Hong Kong, people love this texture, so this dish is a big hit with Chinese customers. I‘d personally love to try the kokotxas deep-fried with a wedge of fresh lemon.
Cod was up again – this time, it was black cod with cod maw, peas and clams ($280), finished with a Basque sauce. The fish was plump and meaty, and the clams were sweet and tasted of the sea. I loved the sauce, and there was a good amount of saltiness from the maw. This was one of my favourite dishes at Olé.
The last of the cod dishes (I promise) was cod bacalao, or salt cod ($260). This fish is dried and preserved in salt; in the past, it was a popular way to store fish without the need for refrigeration. Before cooking, it’s soaked in water to rehydrate it and remove the salt. This dish was served with beautifully cooked porcini mushrooms and al-dente asparagus topped with a pil-pil potato, fresh chilli and fried garlic. The mushrooms added a deep, savoury element to the dish, and the asparagus provided a welcome crunchy contrast to the smooth texture.
Moving on to meat, we sampled the famous Ibérico ham (from $210 for starter size). Sliced thinly from the leg, it was rich and sweet. Its texture was firm, but the fat melted in the mouth. This was some of the best Ibérico I’ve tasted and a must-have on the menu at Olé.
Chicken was next – pearl chicken breast ($235) stuffed with prunes and served with morels and a solera Périgord truffle reduction. The chicken was beautifully browned, and I loved the flavour pairing of the sweet, sticky prunes.
Dessert followed. The Cantabric cheesecake ($90) was up first, made using a Spanish cheese similar to Italian ricotta, flavoured lightly with lemon zest and finished with summer berries, a port reduction and nut brittle. This was rich and decadent, with a tart freshness coming from the berries and a sweet, crunchy nuttiness from the brittle.
The second dessert, a pineapple tart ($70), was light and refreshing. The pineapple was cut into tiny cubes and then topped with vanilla ice cream, which melted into the fruit, creating a creamy texture and delicious flavour without being too heavy. This is the perfect dessert for people who feel guilty ordering pudding or for those who feel too full to order dessert – trust me, you have room for this one.
I couldn’t have asked for a more authentic Spanish dining experience than the one I had at Olé. Come here to get all the Spanish feels without the need to set foot on a plane – especially in the evenings and during Saturday brunch with a background of live music. The prices here are on the high side, but this is the story of Hong Kong dining in general, particularly in prime areas like Central. Normal folk are being priced out...
1/F, Shun Ho Tower, 24–30 Ice House Street, Central, 2523 8624, book online
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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