Looking out those big arched windows down onto bustling Kensington Street while heaping through some lovely handmade pasta in a generous, well-designed historic space atop The Old Rum Store is my idea of a good evening out. As is sipping a perfectly refreshing nergroni on an open-air terrazza (terrace) while the faint summer breeze blows through a bright, energetic bar area. Luckily Olio offers both.
Kensington Street’s Sicilian resident is a two-room restaurant and bar that takes up the entire top level of this beautiful building, full of life and character plus that big, festive spirit often credited to Italian dining. Exit the elevator (or climb the stairs) and head off in one direction to find yourself on that aforementioned terrazza and try not to be charmed by the simple but effective design. Tables are well spread out, all sitting opposite a long, well-stocked bar while a faint breeze enters from the balcony. Even if you’re not here for a full meal, tucking into some bar snacks over a tipple or two on this terrace sounds like a great idea any day of the year.
The other direction will bring you to the main dining area, a sprawling space that makes great use of the building. A large open kitchen is lead by Sicilian-born chef Lino Sauro, who sources olive oil from his family farm back home and focuses his wealth of experience (he made at his name at some of Singapore’s finest Italian restaurants) into a fantastic menu that offers enough variety to smartly balance meats, seafood and pasta; although there is a strong bias towards seafood here, resulting in plenty of medleys mixed into fresh handmade pastas.
If you’re planning on a full meal here then look through the starters first after grabbing on or two baskets of freshly baked Sonoma bread. The Polipo ($28) may be one of the priciest items here but it’s also unequivocally the best, with soft and lightly charred Fremantle River octopus served with a lovely capsicum aioli and chickpeas. Something entirely different but just as good is the warm traditional Caponata ($18), defined by a beautiful, rich ricotta cheese cream.
Meat lovers will land straight on generous dishes like the Agnello ($42), soft lamb neck braised for 48 hours and served with pumpkin puree, black truffle jus and plum gel, or the fairly unremarkable Capello Del Prete ($42): slow cooked Wagyu oyster blade with celeriac puree, pickled onion and jus; though it’s the seafood pasta that’s clearly the superior order here.
Eight vastly different pastas feature on the menu. The Ravioli ($32) with king prawns, black truffle and a light burrata sauce is a dreamy, flavour-rich serving that’ll go down a treat, although there’s enough here that sounds good enough for numerous repeat visits, like the Tagliolini ($32) with fresh sea urchin sauce, or the Bucatini ($28) with saffron, fresh sardines, wild fennel, raisins and pine nuts. Seafood lovers will also want to try the Zuppa ($36), a terracotta pot full of the restaurant’s signature gattopardo seafood stew with the likes of clams, mussels and prawns.
Dolci sides more with tradition as opposed to the slightly more adventurous mains, but there’s little to complain about with the likes of Chef Lino’s signature Semifreddo ($16), the ideal way to cap of a meal here with a nougat parfait soaking in toasted almond sauce. Though by this point the meal would already be quite pricey, especially if you’re throwing a selection from the well-curated wine list on top. To make sure you’re getting your money’s worth it seems like a better choice to stick to the seafood here; luckily, there’s more than enough variety here to encourage regular patronage.
Address: Level 2, The Old Rum Store, 2-10 Kensington Street Chippendale 2008
Contact: (02) 9281 1500
Hours: Mon-Sat 6pm-10pm (dinner); Thurs-Sat 12pm-3pm (lunch); Tezzarra Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm