For a restaurant to survive Hong Kong’s crazy rental prices and strong competition, it needs to be pretty solid. When a place reaches even the five-year mark, I think that’s impressive enough. Olé first opened on Ice House Street in 1998. Over 18 years later and it is STILL going strong in the exact same location!
I had actually surprisingly never been to Olé, despite walking past it almost daily. When I heard it had launched a new Saturday brunch menu to showcase its most popular dishes from the past 18 years, I thought it the perfect opportunity to check it out and see how it had managed to keep its customers happy for so many years.
The interior of this longstanding Spanish restaurant has barely been changed in its lifetime, yet, rather than this making it look old and dated, it actually gives it a cosy charm that removes it from Central Hong Kong and transports you to the heart of Spain. This, of course, might be helped by the two guitarists who move around the tables playing and singing classic Spanish ballads.
The brunch menu, which is all served to the table, not as a buffet, consists of 16 courses, the first 12 of which are presented as an array of tapas to share. Some of my favourites of these were the sautéed chorizo with garlic and chives, and the deep-fried padrón peppers with romesco sauce.
The chicken and Iberico ham croquetas were also beautiful, with a lovely, fluffy interior and perfectly crispy exterior. I’ll admit I did steal a little of the remaining romesco sauce from the peppers to give them a little extra deliciousness.
I was also impressed by the classic tortilla Española, which was cooked just right, to the point that the centre remained just a little bit runny, and served with a wonderful caper aioli.
Although the Spanish octopus, or pulpo a la gallega, had a lovely flavour, the octopus itself was a little bit too chewy. As were the Andalusian-style clams, although the garlic broth served as the perfect dip for the crusty, warm bread.
Once you have feasted on all these tapas and more, the waiters will go from table to table presenting an entire seafood paella, which is then served as individual portions. The same happens with an entire roasted suckling pig, but we sadly arrived late and missed the presentation! The paella had a decent al dente texture to it and a nice flavour, but we did speculate slightly over the freshness of the seafood. The suckling pig, meanwhile, was very good, with a perfectly crispy skin and juicy, tender meat.
We were then presented with the paella of the day – in this case a chicken paella, which I actually preferred to the seafood version.
The only part of the brunch that you have to think about and make a decision on is dessert. When churros are on the menu, however, there is no thinking required! Olé’s churros with warm chocolate sauce were excellent – not overly sweet and nicely crispy yet fluffy inside.
We also tried the leche frita, which literally translates to fried milk. This is a traditional Spanish dessert, yet one that isn’t seen on many menus in Hong Kong. It had a lovely texture similar to a kind of baked custard, but I think the outside layer could have been a little bit crispier. It was sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled in a sweet toffee reduction.
I think this is one of the best value brunches in Hong Kong, priced at $380 per person for more food than you need (for possibly the first time in my entire life I was even too full to have dinner!). You can opt for free-flow Cava and sangria for an additional $150, or $180 for Cava, sangria, red or white wine.
Serving traditional and authentic Spanish food, without trying to recreate the wheel, I can now see why Olé has been going strong for so many years and hope to see it around for many more!
1/F Shun Ho Tower
24-30 Ice House Street
Tel: +852 2537 8856