Flavours of the city: Oliva Bar and Restaurant on 178 Oxford Road

2011-09-09 07:23

Taste of Joburg comes to Montecasino on Thursday. The 7 team reviews three of the restaurants that have been invited to showcase their culinary wares at this year’s festival.

Oliva Bar and Restaurant on 178 Oxford Road

Ambience:
Chef Zane Beer, who abandoned Parktown North at the end of last year, has opened the delightful Oliva at the top of Corlett Drive.

Decked out in minotaur heads, Michelangelo’s David and other paraphernalia of the classical period that he wangled from the Rose Boys, he’s got the light just right and he’s used the tight space to make a cosy eatery where he continues to encourage diners to share and taste an array of Mediterranean dishes.

Service:
It was a relatively quiet Tuesday night in the eatery and the two young waiters were friendly and quick.

They also happily delivered tap water, not offering the irritating option of “still or sparkling”, which makes patrons feel obliged to buy bottled water.

Chef Beer was also on hand, not only bringing food for us, but for his other patrons too.
The nicest thing about a compact chef-owned eatery is that the guy (or gal) who cooks your supper is on-site and accessible.

Menu’s best:
It’s almost impossible to choose the tastiest thing on the menu as everything is delicious. The tapas-style eating means that you get to try nibble-sized portions of an array of dishes.

Chef Beer’s legendary spinach flavoured with nutmeg is really hard to share with others as it is so delicious. Also to die for is the home-made spinach gnocchi in a hot arrabiata sauce, as is the luxuriant mushroom risotto.

The secret to Beer’s food is simplicity coupled with good-quality meats and cheeses, and fresh ingredients.

Expect to find:
The restaurant attracts a varied crowd. Tables of six celebrating birthdays, families with teenage children (younger ones too), middle-aged white folk, young black ones and everybody inbetween.

You don’t have to share – there are plenty of main dishes on the menu, but most of the diners who go to Oliva have embraced the communal eating model, which means you can do more than covet your neighbour’s dinner – you can try it too.

Verdict:
Oliva is due to undergo menu changes once Chef Beer has settled in properly – he’s only been open for six months. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

It can get a little pricy if you get overexcited about ordering tapas and invariably your eyes are bigger than your stomach because though the portions look petite, there are so many more of them.

Rather go back and try other things than try and order everything at one sitting. 

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