“ Type: Italian Med / Address: 32-33 Union Street / Ryde / Isle of Wight PO33 2LE / United Kingdom / Tel: (01983) 611118 „
There are quite a few restaurants on Ryde's Union Street, but not all are serving food at 5.30pm. My son and I couldn't risk missing the last hovercraft of the day back to Southsea and we noticed that Olivo was open and seemed to have an interesting menu.
The area at the front of the restaurant has some low coffee tables and dark brown leather sofas for those just having a drink and a light bite. There are also some dining tables, but we were led through this area and seated at a small table just beside the bar. To the back was a further dining area at a slightly lower level.
When we were seated we were each given a standard menu as well as one to share showing the day's specials; as it was Sunday these included roast lamb. Olivo, however, is primarily a Mediterranean restaurant and has an excellent choice of pasta, risotto and pizza. Prices range from £7.95 for lasagne or moussaka to £11.95 for risotto Valencia (chicken, chorizo and mixed seafood with saffron rice, garlic and chili). There are fourteen varieties of pizza: a margherita is £7.25, but if you prefer a pizza without cheese you might go for an Adriatica with prawns, tomatoes, garlic, chili and fresh spinach at £9.50. Olivo also offers grills and main courses such as chicken tagine, falafel, duck, lamb, beef, venison, pork or locally caught fish. Prices in this section range from £10.95 to £14.95. We both ordered pasta, my son going for spinach and ricotta tortelloni whilst I was intrigued enough to choose the spaghetti eglefino with smoked haddock, broccoli, fresh tomatoes and a white wine sauce. I usually avoid spaghetti as I am not an expert at twirling it round a fork, but I had never come across this particular dish before and I love smoked haddock.
Olivo does also have a good selection of starters and tapas; as well as individual dishes there is a tapas tower for two consisting of meatballs, chicken wings, chorizo and pepper, patatas bravas, houmus and fried spicy calamari for £24.50. Side dishes are around £2.50 to £3.95 and include salads, vegetables and various potato dishes. Salad main meals are priced between £9 and £10 and are served with freshly baked dough balls. We contented ourselves, however, with a main course and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice each.
We waited around fifteen minutes before our food was served. The waitress asked if we would like any fresh black pepper, and I said I would. I had wondered whether the broccoli and tomato would go together as it seemed like a strange combination, but it worked. I loved the smoked haddock, which I hadn't had with pasta before, and the white wine sauce was delicious without being too rich. I often can't finish a pasta dish in a restaurant, but this was so good that I left an empty plate. My son was equally impressed with his tortelloni which was served with tomato and some fresh salad leaves on top.
Neither of us had room for dessert but we had half an hour to spare so my son ordered a hot chocolate and I asked for a decaffeinated capuccino. I never have great expectations of decaffeinated coffee, but the one I had at Olivo was perfect. It had a full flavour without being overly strong. My son said his hot chocolate was extremely good too - he was offered cream with it but declined.
Apart from the food and the coffee, I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the décor at Olivo. Tables and chairs are of a light wood which is also used in the roof alongside panels of glass. The walls are part open brickwork and part painted in a light cream colour. In two places a huge roll of brown paper was fixed high up on the wall, and the end was pulled down so that a list of cocktails could be written out. There are large candles on each table, and one or two floral displays add colour to the restaurant. When we arrived Spanish music was playing which switched to Nitin Sawhney later on.
I was so impressed with the restaurant that I asked one of the waitresses if it existed only on the Isle of Wight. She told us that there had been a branch in Newport (Isle of Wight) for about four years and that the one in Ryde was just coming up to its first birthday. She also said that there is an Olivo restaurant in London, but that it is much more upmarket than the ones on the Isle of Wight. When I said that it was a shame there was no Olivo in Portsmouth, she told us that the company has a cafe called Feed in the Gunwharf Quays area, so I shall definitely be tracking that down.
Our bill came to just over £28 to which we added a tip. The service had been faultless as it was polite, welcoming and extremely efficient.
The main toilets are down a few steps but there is a disabled toilet on the same level as the main dining area. There were two ladies' toilets that were self contained with handbasins, and a vase of fresh flowers added a beautiful touch.
The restaurant is open from 8am and the full menu is served from midday. On weekdays during term time Olivo offers an 'After School Family Feast' from 3.30pm until 5.30pm. The price is £10 for adults and £6 for children under the age of sixteen. There are five choices of main course, most of which come with a bowl of salad and some with garlic bread as well. Included is a soft drink for children and a glass of house wine for adults. I haven't heard of this idea before and wonder if it will catch on in other places.
I have to say that this is one of the best Italian meals I've ever had, and I enjoyed the whole experience of dining at Olivo. I have no reservations in recommending the restaurant, and only wish there were more branches on the mainland. It caters for those just wanting a sandwich or a pastry and a hot drink as well as those wanting a three-course meal. Young children are obviously made to feel welcome here, and high chairs are available. If you are in Ryde, I would definitely suggest finding the time to visit Olivo.
32-33 Union Street
Isle of Wight
Tel. 01983 611118
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