Olivio first saw the light of day back in 2003, and has gone from strength to strength as the years have passed. One of the reasons is that it was set up by an internationally-renowned Italian chef. And, still today, the restaurant imports unique original delicacies that you just can’t get over here – such things as herbs, spices, sun-dried tomatoes, St. Peter’s fish, authentic Italian black truffles, ricotta, and several cheeses, along with various sorts of cold cooked meats.
Another reason for its continued success is its location. Everyone likes the ambiance of a beachside restaurant. To be honest, very few of these have an interesting outlook. But Olivio is right at the furthest northern tip of the curve of Chaweng Bay. And the view is super, particularly at night with the vista of all of Chaweng’s lights glimmering across the water – it’s really romantic. And again, going into Olivio at night is just like finding yourself in a little cobbled alley in the back streets of Naples. Tall whitewashed buildings all around, an almost-secret entrance into a wall of dense under-lit greenery, a winding path through the bushes that passes over a tiny wooden bridge and twists between the tropical plants and little white cottages . . . and then the cool and modern glass-sided restaurant that’s at the edge of the sea.
I have to say that by far the best time to come here is at night. That’s when, visually, this restaurant really shines. But because Olivio is the signature restaurant of the equally-delightful Baan Haad Ngam Resort, it’s open all day. You are most welcome to drop in any time, enjoy a snack or a drink, catch up on your email or update your Facebook page (free Wi-Fi). Find out where it is, check it out, look through the menu, then come back later for a memorable Italian dinner!
The restaurant layout has created three sections, which all seem to blend into one. The back end is air-conditioned and has walls of glass. This runs into a similar central section, but with open sides. And then there’s the outer dining terrace which is elevated above the totally smooth, swept white sand, and is complete with cosy canopied seating against one wall. There are nine tables out on this terrace, and it’s popular, making booking a necessity if this is where you want to be.
As already hinted at, the menu is broad in scope, not only covering daytime snacking but also allowing the kids in your group the option of burgers, sandwiches or fries if you come at night – there’s a good selection of salads and other lite-bites, too. And there’s also a Thai menu that covers all the most popular dishes, with an emphasis on seafood.
But it’s not until you look through the extensive Italian choices that the menu really sings. One of the most popular options here is the pizzas – real, crispy thin-crust Italian-style pizzas, a whole page to pick from –but take care; these are big 30-cm disks and just one will fill you; it needs to be shared!
The antipasto for two is one of the stars – it consists of a huge plate with grilled tuna, smoked salmon, soft shell crab in a crust of polenta, rocket salad, Italian tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella cheese, tomato, basil and melon, with a balsamic honey dressing and fig compote. There are lots of pasta dishes (ravioli, fettuccine, penne, lasagne, spaghetti) and a full page of risottos. The seafood options (squid, mussels, prawns) are outstanding.
But it’s really only when you’re faced with the mains that you realise just how carefully you need to plan your meal – maybe it’s best to do it Thai-style and order several assorted dishes from across the menu, then put them all in the middle and dig in! The main dishes are superb and feature such delicacies as Norwegian salmon, sea bass, Australian lamb (the lamb rack is to die for), rib eye and tenderloin – all presented in true southern-Italian style.
Just a word . . . check out the unsung variety of vegetables that come with the dishes. They’ve all been cooked individually. The potato, carrots, asparagus, aubergine and beans are all perfect. And you can’t get that with them all in one big pan. It’s a measure of the culinary attention to detail at Olivio.
There happy hour is from 12 noon to 6:00 pm, so get here for the sunset and enjoy discounted cocktails before dining. There’s a good selection of quality wine by the bottle and the glass, the desserts are excellent and the service is first-class. What else is there to say? Get yourself up the road to Olivio, over the bridge outside and across the bay. It’s one of the best Italian restaurants on the island!
Rob De Wet
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7733 2950-7.