Restaurant Review: Olivocarne
Sometimes the idea of reviewing Italian restaurants is akin to comparing Brazilian footballers – they’re all so damn good! So when dining at Olivocarne I took a crack team. My companion, Neill had worked in hospitality for over 20 years, running luxury hotel banqueting operations and sweeping up an impressive thousand covers a weekend. Effortless efficiency, service levels, natural warmth, people skills (remember them?) and the whole customer experience were his trademarks. He didn’t bring his clipboard but his eyes, ears and taste buds were on standby.
Much like my esteemed companion I’d tasted first night at Senor Ramsay’s Aubergine (that takes me back) and argued the toss re:Quaglinos and other ‘Brits do Italian’ establishments as well as dining at the Pele’s and Zico’s of Italian cuisine, Bocca di Lupo and L’Anima, while wondering if Casamia and La Parmigiana ‘played’ in London they’d surely be in my first eleven. So with this in mind, could my trip to Olivocarne result in unearthing the new Neymar or in fact, would it not even get to warm the substitute’s bench?
If there’s one street you’d like to be in Belgravia, it’s Elizabeth St. Olivocarne seems to fit in seamlessly from the outside. It has more high profile siblings such as, Oliveto, also on Elizabeth St and Olivomare in Lower Belgrave St (see the website for the full family). So you can see there’s an attempt to differentiate with ‘Mare’ and ‘Carne’, with the focus on ‘fish’ and ‘meat’ respectively.
I thought the decor was playful but unobtrusive. I don’t think making an interior statement was on the agenda here. A glass wall opens out the confined entrance corridor with views into the main restaurant as you walk in. Simple works here. The modernist graphic shapes on the wall break up the monotony of the petite, oblong space which is split levelled at the far side. Award winning? No, but warm, stylish and accommodating. It had a bit of a La Dolce Vita sixties feel. The lighting was just right too, v.important, isn’t that right ladies?
I confess we spent 20 mins debating the menu because there was so much choice. Our selections for starter were fresh mascarpone and ricotta gnocchi with truffles and courgettes, which staff insisted we try. It was the freshest, lightest gnocchi ever, no carb tummy afterwards. Impressive. We also chanced chopped Beef tartare with grated Bottarga with a hint of chilli. Neat flavours.
The main begged us to choose from the steaks. Warning here, delicious as it was, the T-Bone could feed a family of four. Neill sliced into to the juicy sumptuousness of his chargrilled sliced Beef Entrecôte with chilli broccoli. While I stage managed the T-Bone, Neill went in search of the chilli on the broccoli, understated is not the word. We’d plumped for the efficiency of the house Red, Olivo Reserve (£44) and found it, well, just that, efficient.
Half way through the meal service went missing, cat napping a bit, over looking the vegetable selection which came later, like the 7th Calvary, mid-steak. May be they’d thought I’d have raised the white flag earlier with the T-Bone if I crunched through their tasty selection of greens first? Not to worry, Neill’s little schnauzer was the sole beneficiary of my unfinished T-Bone. Every cloud…
The desserts were a bit lost in translation. I would have loved to have tasted the Sardinian cheese fritter drizzled in honey and Neill had his eye on the hot chocolate fondant with crème fraîche. Instead we were persuaded to sample the Sardinian bitter honey frozen yoghurt and blueberry yoghurt. They came from the family gelato on the same street, yes you’ve guessed, Olivogelo, hence their eagerness for us to sample. No doubting they were soft, creamy and both had a bite that tingled on your tongue but we still felt desserted by our desserts. How we hankered for our hot chocolate fondant and cheese fritters.
A latte was needed to reheat the palate, but arrived nearly as cold as the ice cream. It came in a small, transparent glass and impressed less than its contents. We couldn’t let that slightly feeble and at times comical end to the night colour proceedings. If Olivocarne was a Brazilian footballer he would be in the squad, chomping at the bit to get on the pitch. Maybe in six months he may even make his first team debut?
61 Elizabeth St
020 7730 7997
£110 for two