Olive at Mawson is a restaurant that I’ve heard good things about so I was really happy to try it out with friends a few weeks ago. Located at the Mawson shops, you could easily walk past and not even know this place existed. It’s tucked away towards the edge of the shops and not really in a high pedestrian walking zone. However, that Thursday night, the place was packed by 8pm. I walk inside and see white linen tablecloths, linen napkins ready to place on my lap, and wine glasses, plates and cutlery set out carefully. An elderly couple in the corner are enjoying a glass of wine and each others company. I can’t help but admire the olive tree art work on the wall where the tree literally sticks out.

Olive at Mawson insideA friend orders stone baked bread ($5) with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. A generous portion of bread cut into 6 slices arrives on a wooden board. Warm and fresh.

Olive at Mawson turkish breadI order an entree of suppli ($16) which are traditional rice croquettes with buffalo cheese and fresh basil. These are basically arancini balls but a little smaller. They are served hot with steaming risotto and melted cheese inside and a crunchy fried exterior. Tasty but a little expensive.

Olive at Mawson suppliFor my main, I decided to treat myself and order the seafood bouillabaisse ($42) from the dinner specials menu. This is served in a massive deep dish with tender Balmain bugs, king prawns, mussels, calamari and fish in a tomato, leek and saffron broth. The bugs pulled away from the shell easily and were cooked perfectly (wish there was more of it), the two king prawns were large and juicy (again, wish there was more), the calamari was fresh and tender (I was impressed that it wasn’t the rubbery sort). The fish let me down – mainly because there wasn’t much of it and what I did receive were very small chunks. I’m contributing the lack of fish to the lack of fishiness in the bouillabaisse (a fish stew). Other than that, the bouillabaisse was very tomatoey with a hint of chilli in it. I really would have liked more of a fish flavour. But that did not stop me from ordering a side of Turkish bread ($3) to mop it all up.

Olive at Mawson seafood bouillabaisseOther friends order the chicken gnocchi ($22) which was my second choice dish. Fresh home made potato gnocchi in a creamy sauce with chicken, capsicum puree, basil pesto and pine nuts. It looked so good! I must try next time.

Olive at Mawson gnocchiMy partner orders the seafood spaghetti ($26) with home made pasta, banana prawns, black mussels, scallops, fish fillets and calamari with pressed virgin olive oil. I had a taste of this and it was nice but very average.

Olive at Mawson seafood spaghettiAnother friend ordered the gluten-free slow cooked lamb shoulder ($30) served with steamed greens, lemon oregano potatoes and garlic yoghurt sauce. The size of that lamb shoulder was impressive.

Olive at Mawson lamb shoulderFor dessert, I decided on the modern tiramisu with ice cream ($12). This is served layered in a small glass and coated in dark chocolate. A scoop of ice cream quickly melts in a separate pot with a wafer stick poking out. There was just the right amount of mascarpone to lady fingers with a hint of chocolate. I’m used to a slightly less alcoholic tiramisu so I thought the liqueur in this was quite strong, but others may like it.

Olive at Mawson tiramisuMy partner orders the sticky date pudding ($12) with warmed caramel sauce topped with cinnamon powder and vanilla ice cream. We are surprised when two thick triangles of sticky date pudding arrived. The disappointing part was that there isn’t enough caramel sauce on top which made the pudding dry as it wasn’t soaked in the stuff. We mention the extra sauce to the waiter who said he would pass on the feedback.

Olive at Mawson sticky date puddingAnother friend orders the pancakes ($12) served with caramelised apple and vanilla bean ice cream. So these aren’t exactly pancakes, but crepes that came rolled up and stuffed with caramelised apple. Not bad and I thought it was a lighter dessert than the other two.

Olive at Mawson pancakesIt was difficult to get the attention of staff when it got busy that weeknight so we had to wait longer than usual to order and retrieve the bill. Noise levels are at a medium – it can get loud with chatter in the small restaurant but not loud enough that you need to shout across the table. An intimate but friendly atmosphere.

Olive at Mawson CanberraOlive at Mawson is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Foodgasm 7/10
Value for money 7.5/10
Service 6/10

FPJ score 20.5/30

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