New-look Olive as impressive as ever
Olive is one of those cafes that's practically synonymous with Cuba St. Hip, relaxed, just quirky enough to feel cool, always popular on a weekend. Good food, good coffee, good beer and wine.
So it was a bit of a surprise when, earlier this year, word was out that the company that owned Olive Cafe had been put into liquidation, with a new cafe company taking over. Although one of the previous co-owners has stayed on with the new Olive, I wondered how much things would change.
From appearances, it seems changes are afoot: for one, the old "Olive Cafe" sign has gone, replaced with a sleek new italicised logo that simply reads "Olive". The interior's been spruced up: there's a new long leather banquette in the dining room, new candelabra in the window, new artwork on the walls. The charming courtyard, with the cafe's eponymous olive tree, has also been expanded - good news for anyone who's ever tried to nab one of those coveted outdoor seats on a sunny weekend afternoon.
But the overall feel of the place - edging on bohemian but not at all scruffy, a bit stylish and casual all at once - hasn't changed at all. The menu doesn't seem to have changed much either (though it has been reprinted with the new logo). We visit for brunch, and there are our old favourites: the eggs florentine with hash browns, sauteed mushrooms, chorizo and poached eggs on ciabatta, bagels and omelettes and big breakfasts aplenty.
We grab a table under the olive tree outside and order at the counter, just as always. I'm tempted by the small but exquisite-looking selection of baking - slices of dense orange semolina cake, yo-yos, chocolate cupcakes - but this time I'm ravenous, so I order off the brunch menu.
Our coffees don't take too long to arrive (Olive uses Supreme coffee, and our flat whites are delicious), but after that it's a long time before our food comes out. Maybe I should have picked a snack from the counter, after all. Luckily it's a pleasant, relaxed wait. There are really few places lovelier than Olive's courtyard on a sunny spring day, and today is no exception.
When our food finally arrives, it's just as good as it's ever been. I've ordered the eggs florentine ($16) - two poached eggs, spinach, hash brown, hollandaise. The eggs are cooked just to my liking, the runny yolks spilling out over the spinach and into the crispy edges of the hash brown. So far, so good.
One of my friends has ordered what would have been my choice if I hadn't been craving eggs - a plate of fried Zany Zeus halloumi, roasted tomatoes, rocket and fresh herbs on grilled ciabatta ($17). The halloumi is, of course, delicious, but the perfectly seasoned greens and roasted tomatoes and the slightly charred, chewy ciabatta toast really make this a satisfying dish.
My other friend, newly vegetarian, has opted for Olive's Veggie Works ($17) - a big breakfast complete with toast, roast tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, hash brown and hollandaise. It, too, looks delicious.
Despite the subtle changes, Olive seems as good as ever, if not better. They've also added a grill out the back, perfect for summer barbecues. There's often live music in the evenings, too. But the important things remain - the atmosphere, the coffee, the dependable cafe fare. Whatever the reasons for the cafe's new ownership, long-time fans can breathe easy: the essence of Olive remains.
Olive Cafe, 170 Cuba St, Wellington.
Phone: 04 802 5266
Hours: Mon-Sat 7.30am-late, Sun 8am-3pm.
Sounds: Pleasant, folky, indie-ish tunes.
Coffee: Supreme. Our flat whites ($4) are very good, but perhaps a tad on the cool side. 4/5
Mags: A decent selection of design magazines, a few copies of The Dominion Post.
Clientele: Young, hip.
Try this: Fried Zany Zeus halloumi with roasted tomatoes, rocket and fresh herbs on grilled ciabatta ($17).
The Dominion Post