One of Canberra’s most-experienced food critics and this paper’s longest-serving columnist, WENDY JOHNSON indulges herself with her top eating experiences for 2018
I ABSOLUTELY adore Mediterranean cuisine, worshipping its diversity and use of amazing produce, so it never takes much convincing to settle me into a restaurant that adores it, too.
Olive at Mawson is a standout at the Southlands shopping centre. It’s elegant – crisp white table cloths and napkins and comfy cloth chairs – and the minute you open the door, the smells entice you in.
Head chef Daniel Li has pulled together an intriguing menu that celebrates so much that is famous about Mediterranean dining, making it challenging to decide what to order.
What wasn’t challenging was the decision to start with crispy fried olives, a perfect way to perk up the tastebuds. These super-large green olives were stuffed with roasted capsicum and salty feta. We delighted in dipping them into the creamy side dish of aioli ($12).
Our tastebuds continued their journey with the char-grilled octopus, tender, sweet and delicious. The banana peppers we also shared as an entrée were divine. Stuffed with goat cheese and herbs, their flavour was enhanced with a drizzle of Olive’s very own olive oil and balsamic vinegar – a winning combo ($18).
Then we sat back and enjoyed a bit of wine before we received our mains.
Olive’s layout is well planned. You’re not crammed in or sitting on top of the folks at the next table. It’s relaxed and on a warmer, sunnier day we may have opted to sit in the more casual outdoor area.
The whole rainbow trout (mostly deboned) was a treat – perfectly cooked and stuffed with succulent prawns. The dish almost didn’t get ordered for fear it would be too creamy, but the champagne sauce was light and the fish mostly deboned so easy to eat ($36).
Traditional, hearty meatballs are no doubt a big favourite at Olive and this dish came through with its promise to pack a punch with flavour ($18). More delicate was the grilled snapper, perched atop a bed of potatoes with some vibrant greens on the side.
Olive was opened by John Yianoulakis, who arrived in Australia in 1964 and has worked in hospitality ever since, including opening Hellenic Trattoria in Woden with his wife Aleca. After opening Olive at Mawson they ventured further afield and opened a restaurant with the same name at the Hawker shops.
It wasn’t overly busy at Olive on the grey, cool Canberra afternoon we visited. Service was a tad slow, with a bigger party enjoying a birthday celebration at one end of the restaurant. Still, it was worth the wait for the flavours and food and it was sweet when the young birthday boy presented us with a big slab of chocolate cake to enjoy.
Olive at Mawson, Southlands Shopping Centre. Open Tuesday to Sunday lunch and dinner. Call 6286 3753. Fully licensed.