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Olive – Middle Eastern cuisine with a twist in Soho

Olive, a Soho stalwart for Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine just off the escalator on Elgin Street, is another winner from Dining Concepts – and one Sassy has not reviewed properly until now! It offers something a bit different if you want to take a break from your standard lunch, and certainly satisfies if you’ve got a craving for a fattoush salad or moussaka!

Olive has recently expanded into a bigger dining room from its original layout, allowing for more space and privacy between diners. Walking in from a rainy and grey afternoon, its cosy interior of drapings and brown and red decor warmed us up immediately!

Michelle and I couldn’t wait to try celebrity chef Greg Malouf’s new menu for Olive, cooked in-house by head chef Erik Hendry. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out Olive has decided not to employ the usual three-course set lunch of many other Soho haunts, and have instead opted for a Mezze selection to properly celebrate the cuisine. Lunchtime diners are offered choices from a light snack (1 Mezze is $78) to a more elaborate selection of dishes (14 Mezze for $888) with many options in between.

We started with Olive’s Mezze from the main menu, consisting of hummus, baba ganoush, cheese pastries, pickles and olives, and flat bread. Between three of us, we definitely polished off the whole plate, so make sure you order enough for your table! I find good hummus is hard to get in HK, and Olive certainly let me indulge on some of the best I’ve tasted (I wonder if they do takeaway containers…). The baba gfanoush was also deliciously smoky and textured, and the olives and pickles were a nice tart counterpart to the light dips.

Next, three giant falafels arrived, set atop a scattering of tabbouleh salad with a dollop of whipped tahini yogurt on top. They were a bit too large and heavy for my taste, but the outside was perfectly crunchy and the lighter tahini taste from the yogurt was quite refreshing.

The falafel went nicely with a dressing-soaked fattoush salad (always a favourite of mine!). Olive have played with the traditional Lebanese salad by adding avocado and smoked salmon to the mix. It was the first time I’ve tried anything but the original, and I was really enjoyed this unusual twist. The salmon worked well with the lemony dressing, and the combination of textures with each bite was delicious.

Chef Hendry then brought out a steaming bowl of mussels tagine with chickpeas and black lentils. The thick ochre-yellow sauce was an incredible colour, gorgeous against the black mussel shells. The Moroccan spices were balanced well, with none overpowering the other, but I felt there was too much sauce for the amount of mussels. The mussels were a little chewy (slightly overcooked) but taking a huge bite of lentil, chickpea and mussel drenched in sauce was divine; make sure you leave some flatbread to mop up!

Although we were stuffed, we just couldn’t say no to dessert! We had a nicely spice-soaked poached pear that was complemented beautifully with a serving of pistachio ice cream, which was incredibly rich and creamy, yet had a clean freshness running through it too. I just wish the accompanying filo-almond granola had been crunchier to contrast with the other soft textures.

Our second dessert was the chocolate mahallabia with cherry-rose compote and vanilla cream. The vanilla cream was heavenly light, and didn’t overwhelm the bottom layer of runny chocolate (you’ll have to dig deep in your glass to make sure you get every layer). The cherry taste definitely came through, but it was harder to taste the rose flavors.

Olive serves up the Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean classics we all recognise, but also add their own spin on traditional dishes without overdoing it. It was the little elements in the meal that made the difference – the salmon and avocado within the fattoush salad, the whipped tahini yogurt, the flavour-packed desserts… Olive has successfully created an innovative (and delicious!) menu of Middle Eastern dishes that keeps the cuisine fresh and new for diners.

Olive G/F, No. 32 Elgin Street, Soho, Central
2521 1608 www.diningconcepts.com.hk/oliveSoho/index.php

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