First published on 11 Jan 2011. Updated on 22 Mar 2011.
Olé! is located in the maze of establishments behind The Bookworm and 15m north of D-Lounge's door. The ground floor is an often-empty bar and lounge, while the first floor is an orange and gold kitsch dining area for tapas, with long tables and a large television. The top foor offers an expanded menu with tablecloth service in Spanish, English, and Chinese.For a night of tapas, a pitcher of red wine sangria (35RMB/glass, 120RMB/pitcher) arrives tasting like slightly fermented fruit punch speckled with a few diced apples. Huevos rotos (60RMB) resets the mood with fries topped by ‘broken’ fried eggs, thinly sliced ham, and grilled pepper. The giant Spanish potato omelette sandwich (bocadillo tortilla; 30RMB) is best eaten in layers. The eggy tortilla itself is thick and firm, yet fluffy. The Galician-style octopus, rubbery and over-cooked, is sprinkled with paprika, and served atop under-cooked sliced potatoes (40RMB).
Bringing equal disappointment, lurking underneath the tuna and vegetable pie (25RMB) was an unbaked bottom. Squid ink paella (arroz negro; 180RMB) arrived a little crunchy on its surface, topped with prawns and clams while monkfish, scallops, and cuttlefish mixed into the rice lend a well-balanced flavour. The paella, served in a non-stick pan, lacks the prized crust that normally forms on the bottom of the rice in paella. Dinner is saved by the smooth, freshly made flan (45RMB) and torrijas (25RMB), a Spanish bread pudding resembling French toast.
For a night on the second floor, the chicken and garlic soup with boiled egg and fried bread (sopa castellana, 48RMB), though salty, is a good start for a cold night. The avocado salad with red tuna ceviche (65RMB) is grey from a toss in citrus juice far too early, and the stale toast that comes with it is of no help. Anchovies with tomato and cream cheese (148RMB) undermined high expectations with oil-packed cured anchovies, counter to the manager’s insistence they were fresh fillets. Where the paella’s flavour didn’t disappoint, the baby cuttlefish with ink sauce pasta (88RMB) had a strong fishy scent against flaccid pasta. Pork sirloin (88RMB) was grilled but lost any grill flavour in a pool of sweet mustard-mushroom cream sauce.
For dessert, the profiteroles (35RMB) with bitter chocolate ice cream and hot chocolate sauce were soggy and chewy, the custard scrambled. They were slightly warm with the gummy texture of microwaved bread. Despite the kitchen falters, Olé’s servers deliver earnestly with their kind service. Dinner finished with complimentary moscatel and chocolates for a sweet ending.
If the mood calls for Spanish food and you have a group of friends, the first floor of Olé is roomy and may be the better choice. The bar/lounge and fine dining floors leave much to be desired and may depend heavily on the success of the tapas. Major changes need to be made before the entire building deserves a wholehearted ‘Olé!’