I don’t live in Bangalore. I worked in Bangalore in 2012 for a short stint and during my stay there, I was always on the lookout for new places to eat and new cuisines to try. Being Mexican, I guess the love of food is inherent in me. However, it wasn’t until I was taken to Olive Beach by a friend I met in India that I knew what the famous hospitality of Indians is actually all about.
We went for their famous Sunday brunch, and on the way there I was thinking that this would most likely be yet another Indian restaurant trying to be European; I was a bit apprehensive about the experience waiting for me. Olive Beach is set in an old-world villa converted into a Mediterranean restaurant in a quiet nook off Richmond Road. The coarse walls were white and the doors and windows blue, like a typical Mediterranean house.
“It’s so wannabe!” I told my friend. The interiors were quite pleasant, with white chairs and tables set out in the courtyard for outdoor seating and traditional Mediterranean-style seating inside.
The crowd was mostly white, and then, to my horror, I saw kids running around.
“Oh, my!” I groaned. Now, I love kids and have a set of nephews and nieces I love to death. But who would like to be annoyed by kids on a Sunday brunch!
The good-looking waiter ( I think most Indians are good looking, at least the ones in Bangalore) ushered us to our table, set delightfully, with a small vase of fresh geraniums to brighten it up.
“Let’s start, I’m hungry,” urged my friend.
The salad area gave me my first surprise. The spread was rich and varied and I was unsure for a while where to start, finally settlingfor a potato salad with marinated beetroot in it and also some Caesar corn salad. The salad was crunchy, yet moist and tender.
They started us off with some nicely-textured shooters and some cocktails. We had opted for an unlimited alcohol brunch and the wine which came with the food was equally good. Around us, the mood was celebratory with people chattering away while the waiters ran around busily, filling and refilling glasses, serving food and occasionally talking to happy diners. The mood was that of a beach restaurant, but in a far more elegant setting. Luckily, the kids around were well behaved and enjoying their time in separate tables.
It was again time to hop inside to the buffet counter. We had different kinds of dips, like hummus, roasted garlic, feta and walnut etc. I saw pates with crackers, different kinds of breads, hams, meats and cheeses there, too. Smoked salmon, baby prawns… my choices were endless. I settled for smoked salmon, this time marvelling at the right blend of smokiness and freshness of the salmon, quite a task to accomplish.
The real treat came later, in the form of oysters. The live station had different things to offer from oysters, to calamari to a very live pasta station, with several kinds of pasta.
The seafood aficionado in me loves Oysters. Even then, I took only three of them for fear of them not being fresh. They were not only fresh, but tasted delicious. Soon a procession of oysters were brought to my table by giggling waiters, and when I finished my 25th or 30th oyster and looked around, my friend was looking at me in amazement while the waiters were amused at my gluttony which I bravely ignored and accepted the next platter graciously. I had to forgo the short pizzas and delicious-smelling pastas and so many other delicacies, owing to a full stomach. “Next time…” I told myself, while finishing off my meal with some creamy Tiramisu.
We spent another half an hour there talking and slowly sipping our ever-replenished wine. When it was time to say goodbye, almost all of the staff came to bid me farewell. They were amused by the Oyster man, and I was entranced by this charming little place.
We had lunch there the following week. This time there were no strangers there for me. They all came and greeted me with genuine delight in their eyes.
“Hi Oscar… good to see you again!” The manager came and shook my hands, pointing me to the big stack of oysters waiting for me
It was midweek and I was not expecting many people. But as the minutes passed, one by one, each table was filled, and soon we were surrounded by a host of diners who were a delight to be around. In the smoking corner, we met Marcello from Spain and Dean from the USA, both working with an MNC in Bangalore, like me. They introduced us to their other friends and soon tables were rearranged and we were having an impromptu celebratory lunch.
A young girl was singing at each table, accompanied by an aging guitarist. When she came to our table, I wanted to excuse her, but Marcello asked the girl to sing a song to me, as I was leaving the country in a week.
It began:”Travelling….” the rest of which unfortunately I can’t remember.
She told me that this was her composition and she was dedicating it to me as I was travelling, and that this was the first time she had ever sung it. Well, she had to repeat the song once more while everyone began to clap to the song and it actually became a farewell for me.
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“Hey, let’s go to Olive Beach for dinner,” I told my friend on the last evening in India, “let’s have our last meal in Bangalore there.”
So we went, for a final Olive experience. The setting was entirely different at night. The whole place was lit by candles and we chose an inside table this time, some privacy on my last evening here.
We ate almost in silence, my friend taking occasional loo breaks in between. I chose some hand cut Tagliolini with green peas, eggplant, zucchini etc in it which tasted delicious.
“What about some desserts?” the waiter asked me.
“Actually, I would like some dessert,” my friend told him.
“Do you have anything special to recommend tonight?”
“Let me ask the chef.”
I met Chef Manu Chandra the second time I came to Olive Beach. He came out of the kitchen perhaps to see this new Oyster man in town. We had exchanged a few words, congratulating him on the entire effort.
After a few minutes, a waiter came with a chocolate cake, followed by the Chef and the other staff in tow. On it was written in chocolatey words: ‘Bon Voyage, Oscar’
“A complimentary gift for you, Oscar,” announced Manu .
I didn’t know how to react, it explained the more than usual loo breaks my friend had taken and I was the last to discover the conspiracy.They all came and shook my hand and wished me good luck and a safe journey home.
I said adieu to everyone at Olive Beach that day. I almost felt that I was leaving people I had known for a long time. I am back in the USA and it’s been quite a while since my little sojourn in India. But whenever I think of India, my friend’s face comes to mind, with the memories of the times we spent at Olive Beach.
Thank you, Olive beach, for the good times, good food and the company!