Bombay is buzzing with food bloggers, self made critics and zomato review writers. It’s been around for a while but in the last year or so food has become extremely trendy. We’ve got blogger associations, college students writing, even well known and respected food critics have their personal blogs ( thanks to editors and their nasty word count) and instagram accounts to share all their culinary adventures. It’s an exciting time to be involved in food. I’m familiar with my fellow food enthusiasts in Mumbai but this was the first time I interacted with bloggers and food fanatics in Pune.
Pune Foodiez is a group that has recently sprung up and spearheaded by a very old friend of mine. As the name suggests it’s a group of fellow ‘foodiez’ that meet up and enjoy each other’s company over food. Some are quite critical and have strong opinions on how food should be ( something I completely relate to) while the others are more relaxed and have a wonderful sense of Joie la vivre. After reading their tweets ( the most active bunch I have ever met) and their reviews I was looking forward to meeting them. Specially Tes who is the sole reason my khao soi attempt was such a hit.
Olive Bistro is one of my favourite restaurants in Pune and it was at the launch of their new menu where I got a chance to interact with this trigger happy, tweet friendly, food loving bunch. Olive is one of the prettiest restaurants in Pune and dishes out delicious food. I find their food in general to be simple with ample flavour and pretty plating, and one of the few restaurants in the city that tries to experiment with their menu. In fact their specials menu sounds like a dream with smoked salmon ceviche with edible flowers, romanesco prawns and delectable tortellini’s. Though I didn’t get a chance to sample the exotic sounding dishes I did however get a sneak peek at their new additions to their existing menu. Chef Noah Barnes is the genius behind most of the show stoppers at the restaurant and is quite a celebrity in his own right. Not only is his one of the youngest chefs around, but he was also the youngest chef to represent India at the Hans Bueschkens Young Chefs Challenge Asia Semi Final in 2011. He was nice enough to chat us through his menu and about food in general. He warned us there was a lot to try but this enthusiastic table most certainly brought their appetites.
The minestrone soup is lovely with nice crunchy textures and despite not usually enjoying tomato based soups I would readily order this again.The carrot and dill soup was eaten with much hesitation because quite honestly neither of the ingredients sounds appealing in a soup. It was surprisingly lovely but I find the texture to be slightly thick, almost like a puree and is served with a tortellini which is stuffed with burnt butter and chopped carrot which oddly enough tasted like it had pine nuts in it ( the burnt butter gives it that nuttiness). It was most surprising to find it had not a single nut and all the crunch was from carrot and flavour from burnt butter! I like the addition of the tortellini I think it takes the soup one step further. However I do feel this is a thick soup and a complete miss match for this weather, especially with the days getting hotter and hotter. I think it would work better as a winter soup. People might think it’s strange but so many reasons affect your choice of food and the weather is a big one.
The red wine poached pear salad with candied walnuts and blue cheese was possibly my favourite dish at the meal. I adore poached pear and am use to eating it in a dessert. The combination of the fruit, star anise and cinnamon along with blue cheese is my idea of heaven on a plate. Then they go ahead and add candied nuts! I think I fell in love. I did however feel there wasn’t enough blue cheese in the salad but I think that’s a catch 22 situation for a restaurant because someone will complain of an over powering flavour or blue cheese or then someone like me will complain that there isn’t enough.
Their pizzas I’m told are extremely popular on the menu and for me a pizza is highly personal. I like it in a certain way. This pizza was interesting enough with a pesto based sauce and toppings but a four cheese pizza still rules my heart so it’s very difficult for me to accept another. However I will grudgingly admit that it’s a good flavour and a nice change from tomato or cheese based sauces.
The polenta cakes with ratatouille and blue cheese dressing is a very well plated dish. I think it’s one of the prettiest plates that came out of the kitchen and though it probably isn’t something I would order ( I’m a meat eater) it’s a very well made dish. There is also a mild hint of blue cheese in the dressing so that it’s not over powering but you know my take on blue cheese by now 🙂
The slow braised lamb shanks with saffron risotto is a feast and specifically for two people so it’s the ideal thing to order on date night. The lamb is soft and melts off the bone making it easy to eat as well. I didn’t care for the risotto much, I think it could have been creamier and though everything on the plate is extremely filling and satisfying I would have enjoyed a potato or two to go with my meat. I think personally I would have substituted the risotto for creamy buttery mash potatoes. I know its done to death but I love it.
The rawas with rocket leaves, crushed potatoes and lemon caper dressing is enjoyable but not something that thoroughly excites me. If I’m in the mood for fish then definitely. I do however like the inclusion of rocket and there is ample sauce to dress the fish.
The paprika chicken legs I’m told is a winner on their menu and seems very popular with many Olive regulars. I can understand why because Paprika is smoking hot and though to me seems like a slight disconnect with the kind of food Olive serves, it is a spicy dish which most people want. Indians in general need spice and the more robust the flavour, the better. These sexy chicken legs are not only dusted with ample paprika which adds to their hotness ( no pun intended) but also served with a spicy paprika sauce. It’s delicious, It’s spicy and quite the hottie.
My absolute favourite dish from the mains and quite possibly the entire meal was their chicken and wild mushroom lasagna. Oh my lord it was a melody of flavours in my mouth. For one the pasta sheets are not that thick as you get in most restaurants making it easier to cut and bite into. The chicken adds a great flavour but the winner is the multiple types of mushroom used in the dish. Straight of the bat you get that distinct flavour and texture of wood ear mushrooms which are very different from the regular button ones. Along with that there are shitake mushrooms, chopped oyster, button and if I’m not mistaken some diced enoki in there as well. It’s a beautiful dish topped with cheese and if there is anything that will make me come back to Olive it will be this and the salad.I’ve stayed away from lasagna’s for a long time because I’m fed up of constantly being disappointed. I think Olive Bistro might have restored my faith in the dish once again.
Dessert was a delight for dessert darlings with different flavoured macaroons, the current darling of the dessert world and a massive jar with tiramisu which again is a sharing portion for two people. The table wiped all the jars clean within minutes so I would imagine that’s a sign of how great it was and the macaroons vanished as well. I’m not a big fan of either dessert so it’s hard for me to talk about it but I think the tables reaction says it all.
Along with the food Olive Bistro dishes out some killer cocktails. I think their barkeep is superbly talented because the Mandarin Mojito and the breakfast martini which is a beautiful blend of vodka, orange juice and orange marmalade are my top picks.
Based on what I ate I would definitely go back for my favourites but to get a true sense of Olive’s food and alcohol I would personally recommend the Sunday brunch which they’ve aptly called the ‘ bottomless’ brunch. The restaurant is situated in Pune Club and is only for members and their guests so in case you aren’t a member don’t fret. Just call the restaurant and they will be happy to help you out.