The Kensington Street hub in Central Park is a continually evolving locale of trendy restaurants, cool hawker stalls and bustling activity. Immediately upon entering the precinct located adjacent to the Central Park complex and a short walk from Central Station, there is an energetic atmosphere. Renovated heritage terraces are home to bars and restaurants, the alfresco seating areas of Spice Alley sparkle with fairy lights and delicious smells from the hawker style eateries engulf the air. The whole area radiates cool vibes and great ambience.
Right off the main road a modern building stands on one’s left, home to numerous restaurants including the place of tonight’s dinner Olio with Italian cuisine, French venue Bistro Gavroche, American style Eastside Grill and a Private events space. We enter the building proceeding up to level two. Walking out of the elevator, one is greeted by olive trees only fitting considering the restaurant’s namesake Olio which is the Italian chef’s family’s olive oil brand. The room is a cool light filled space with elegant white décor and a sleekly designed pass with sexy curves. Lush green tones radiate around the room, mimicking the green olive groves of Sicily. There is also a magnificent adjoining rooftop terrace perfect for summer nights, a pre-dinner drink or special functions.
Sitting down the friendly staff deliver a complimentary basket of bread, filled with warm Sonoma rustic miche sourdough, house made focaccia and some lavosh style bread. This was presented with the chef’s famed brand Olio olive oil and simply went down a treat!
The menu features Sicilian dishes drawing from the award-winning chef Lino Sauro’s Italian background. For our entrees we enjoyed a range of dishes showcasing the very best of modern Italian cuisine and fresh produce. Caponata Tiepida con Ricotta Fresca ($18) was described as Warm Sicilian Caponata with Fresh Buffalo Ricotta Cheese. The vibrant mix of capsicum, eggplant and tomato in a rich olive oil marinade pronounced rich flavor despite its simple ingredients. Atop the vegetables sat expertly piped ricotta cheese which embodied a luxuriously smooth texture and very subtle sweetness that was addictively moreish.The focus on fresh seafood is a foundation to the menu, especially evident through the Grilled Calamari Al Limone ($26). This consisted of Chargrilled Calamari Salad with Tomato, Fennel and Lemon Vinaigrette. The calamari was skillfully cooked, and I particularly loved the crisp chargrilled flavor that remained free of any potential burnt blackness, so common an occurrence when I myself try to achieve such flavor notes with this culinary method. Meanwhile the accompanying tomato fennel salad in a light lemon vinaigrette was refreshing and palate pleasing, proving a great summer’s dish.My favourite dish of the night was the Polipo ($28) with Charred and Citrus Glazed Octopus, Capsicum and Sundried Tomato Aioli. My gosh it took my breath away! This may actually be the most tender delicious octopus I have ever eaten! The tentacle melted away ever so wonderfully with the slightest touch of my knife, incredibly soft and tantalising. The citrus glaze was addictively delicious, with a sticky caramelised texture which glimmered off the pink tentacles enticingly. It was served with a smoky capsicum and tomato aioli and a simple potato puree, but really the octopus just spoke for itself! I could have devoured endless amounts of this dish without trouble and be the happiest person in the world.For our mains we couldn’t miss sampling one of the pastas from this category of the menu, after all we are in an Italian restaurant and Nonna would not be happy! The range of pastas is wide and diverse, including ravioli, bucatini, risoni, tagliolini which are all paired with some kind of seafood, fusing together a union of flavours! We opted for the Strozzapreti ($34), which was Homemade Squid Ink Pasta with Spanner Crab, N’Duja Black Pepper Sauce. Finger-length pieces of black pasta were cooked al dente, in a rich seafood bisque infused with the spicy Italian sausage n’duja and little bits of indulgent spanner crab. It was nice, and I loved that the pasta was homemade, yet next time I would probably a select different pasta as the others looked more alluring.The Cernia ($36) was a piece of Pacific Hapuka Filet with Broccoli and Evoo Purée, Heirloom Beetroot. The fish was cooked beautifully proving soft and juicy, it fell apart effortlessly into delicate yet meaty bits. Evoo translates as olive oil, and it translated into the dish as a light green purée. The lime green colour was enticing and all the more enjoyable, thanks to the key ingredient broccoli- who knew you could rival a creamy mash with delectable greeny goodness?! To polish it off, cute pickled baby beetroots prettily decorated the dish, with a tangy zing and vibrant pink addition to the stunningly presented main course.The Agnello ($42) was Saltbush Tea Smoked Lamb Rump with Eggplant, Blueberries, Anchovy Sauce. This was an interesting dish, the lamb was lean with a thin yet noticeable layer of fat surrounding the meat proving not too friendly on my taste buds. The lamb could have been a little more pink to my liking, as the meat was a bit tough. The jus was something unusual and completely surprised my senses as a distinctive anchovy flavor shouted from the plate. I’m yet to be decided as to whether I liked it or not, with the unfamiliar combination of flavours definitely challenging my taste buds. I know that anchovies can be a seriously acquired taste, so I warn those who dislike them to definitely ask for this on the side. However, I really adored the bright purple blueberry purée that exploded from the plate and enchanted my tongue.
For those looking to share or dining with many, the menu features two centerpiece dishes designed for two or more people to share, proving perfect for big appetites or group dinners. The La Costata of 1.1kg Chargrilled Black Onyx Rangers Valley OP Ribs ($168) is an opulent choice great for those connoisseurs of meat, meanwhile the Dentice Signature 900g Salt Baked Wild Snapper with “Salmoriglio” and Evoo Mayonnaise ($88) is a performance piece with a thick outer crust that is cracked open at the table.
By this stage unfortunately we were too full to enjoy any of the deserts, however a reliable friend assures me that they are absolutely to die for! This just means that now I have an excuse to come back to visit, ensuring I leave room for a sweet finale! If you love your Italian, and furthermore fresh seafood, I highly recommend a visit to Olio for a great dinner that is sure to have you wanting more!
Level 2, The Old Rum Store, 2-10 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9281 1500
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Olio Kensington St