Now Olé, is an exciting new tapas restaurant in the heart of Brisbane’s South Bank – not Melbourne’s much more entertaining suburb, Southbank – but our dear little excuse for fine-dining, cheap movies and soaking sun rays on a beach mid-city. Having experienced tapas at Peasant previously, I thought I knew what was coming – fairly small portions at exorbitant prices. My, was I wrong.
Obviously serving up Spanish fare, Olé’s interior is perky beyond perky – when you first enter the store, you are almost instantaneously greeted by a cheerful server with a cheery smile. A huge assortment of tables of various sizes are available – and the venue seats up to 170 hungry foodies. Typically open-planned, I was concerned that I would be nippy in our chilly historically-cold-Autumn weather – and again, proven wrong. A huge number of heaters are plotted around the eatery – and the waiters and waitresses do a surprisingly good job at manoeuvring around them.
We unfortunately decided to visit Olé while we were both hand-in-hand with slight colds, so we didn’t indulge in their extensive drinks list – which includes a massive variety of Spanish sherries, wines, sangria, beers and ciders. The bar glowed at us enticingly but we managed to restrain ourselves and kept to gulps of chilled water between bites of deliciousness. And, just on a personal note – I absolutely love sangria. Put some sangria in front of my face and I will drink all of that up. No pretence, what-so-ever. Be sure, once I do manage to get my olfactory sense in working order once again, I will return to DRINK IT ALL.
Thinking in terms of Peasant sizes, we decided that we would order four items from the tapas menu and a single item from the Ración menu to fill our gullets – since we didn’t have any alcohol in our tanks to soak up the holes in our culinary expectations. This appeared to be a mistake on our part, since the serving sizes are much more generous than it’s tapas competitor – we were left with a sense of Oops and Oh Well, We Paid For It, Stop Eating The Bread.
To kick the evening off we ordered the Patatas Bravas ($6.00) – basically crisped spiced potatoes – now me and the boyo absolutely adore potatoes in all of their forms – and when this plate came out piled with our spuddy friends, we squealed with delight. Unfortunately, they didn’t have as much kick as we thought they would – the potatoes were not spicy (well, in our terms) and the salsa a little too runny, turning our once crisp potatoes into less crisp versions of themselves – slightly upsetting on our part – but still tasty – just not as tasty as we would of expected.
Next came a literal ball of bread – thinking that we hadn’t actually ordered much, we decided to fill up on bread (Pan y Aceite de Oliva – $8.00) and Ole’s special extra virgin olive oil. What we were expected was a few slices of bread. What we received was a ball of bread with a large dagger-like device poking out of it for us to dissemble it in any which way we saw fit. Combined with the fruity house extra virgin olive oil, it went well with everything on our menu – particularly for sopping up the left over sauce from our patatas. It left us covered with crumbs for the whole evening, but it was absolutely worth it.
We went on to order the Calamares y Chanquetes ($9.00)– crisp calamari and whitebait with aioli – being fans of both calamari (and oddly enough, whitebait) I eagerly pointed out this to my boyo and with gusto, it arrived at our table, complete with a generous wedge of lemon to satiate our need for tang. The calamari was tender and perfectly cooked – just chewy enough to let you know it was a bit of squid, but soft enough so it didn’t leave us chewing like cows and a nasty plod of cud. The whitebait was less impressive – congealed in a nasty amount of batter, some of the whitebait ended up looking like multi-eyeballed lumps of snot. Not very attractive – and it mainly tasted of flour and oil.
We always must order jamón – no matter where we are or what other things we may be consuming, if jamón is on the menu, we wil purchase it and gobble it up with aplomb. Our first pick, the Jamón Serrano had run out, so we went for the slightly more expensive PALETA Iberico de Bellota ($18.00) – an acorn fed iberian ham, which was being toted to us as “rich and nutty”. Yes, it was certainly rich – but it also had an overpowering waxy taste to it. It was served up with two slices of bread – bringing our total bread accumulation to scary new heights. We hadn’t even reached our Ración item yet and we were erring on sickly full.
Our main (or Ración, I should say) was a trio of grilled chicken, capsicum and onion skewers on a bed of saffron pilaf – on the menu, it’s known as rochetas de Pollo ($19.00). It arrived on the table and we were overwhelmed by the smell. The chicken was succulent, perfectly cooked and bursting with flavour. Generously soaked in lemon, and melting in the nearly-camaelised red onion and super-soft capsicum slices, we died and went to heaven. And then we got to the saffron pilaf – in one word: AMAZING. In several? Fragrant with a slightly coconutty essence to it, it wasn’t exactly bursting with saffron flavour, but you could tell it had been dosed with it. I have a penchant for coconutty rice. It has much to do with my Malaysian heritage and the fact that my mum no longer cooks it because it’s “too fatty”. She may have a point, but man, do I miss it.
Our night was also highlighted by a waitress bringing out several cupcakes absolutely bedecked with candles as a celebratory birthday offering to the fellow sitting at the table next to ours. The entire platter arrived as a fireball and was blown out to cheers of hilarity and protest (the wife was being smothered by billows of smoke). He was 55. I’m not certain if there were 55 candles embedded in those three cupcakes, but it sure looked like it!
Our total bill brought us up just under $60 – and to us that’s a fairly reasonable price – we were stuffed to the hilt and $30/head for a dinner at South Bank is acceptable. Keep in mind, we hadn’t indulged in our inherent alcoholic streaks, so we were saved by our colds to some extent.
Now, I don’t know if this seems a bit odd to you, but it certainly does for me – Olé also serves up breakfast, daily. I’ve never known a tapas place to do a breakfast menu, but there you go. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t give it a try, though – and after having a sticky-beak at the menu, I’m impressed. I mean they have a dish called “Huevo y jamón” – consisting of poached eggs, freshly shaved jamón, spinach and homemade hash brown for the wonderful bargain-basement price of $18. I mean, it has JAMON in it. I can see my fiance salivating right now. How intense it that? Also, with such reasonable prices for the Southbank area, it’s hard to argue with as a wishlist breakfast destination.
Shop B12 Little Stanley St
Ph 07 3846 1201
Open 7 days, breakfast, lunch and dinner