Get caught up in the passion, colours, tastes and sounds of Spain with Brighton’s immersive authentic tapas and flamenco dining experience.
I cannot believe Ole Ole has been serving up a taste of sun-baked Southern Spain for ten years now! I remember visiting when it first opened its doors way back in 2009 and have been back several times since. I love the hidden gem quality of the location and the authentic Spanish food and music experience I have always had there which takes you instantly into holiday mode! The place has always invoked memories of Spanish holiday trips of my youth, with great classic tapas dishes and the energetic live flamenco sessions of a weekend, which tend to get everyone up dancing by the end of the evening.
Earlier this year my wife and I had a hankering for an evening of Spanish food and dancing, and were disappointed to find Ole Ole had closed its doors for a refit. Thankfully in July it opened its doors again, with a brand new look and layout, some fresh additions to the menu and reportedly the best Spanish flamenco show in town. Upon hearing this, we figured it high time we paid them another visit.
We booked a table for eight o’clock and arrived shortly after. The Flamenco group was just setting up and there was a definite buzz in the air. The tables were packed with groups of friends sharing jugs of sangria, a large Spanish family had taken a bench in the centre of the room, and the waiting staff were nimbly darting around the tables, taking orders and chatting with the diners. The newly refurbed décor instantly evokes images of balmy Spanish nights with traditional Andalusian artwork adorning Moorish white walls, vines hanging from the ceiling and a green-lit skylight casting a welcoming glow.
We are shown to our seats by the restaurant manager Sandra. Before the refurbishment, the Flamenco group were usually tucked away in the corner of the restaurant so you had to be picky about where you were seated. Nowadays they have a more central stage so no matter where you sit, you are able to get a great view of the show.
On Flamenco nights (generally Friday/Saturday) Ole Ole has a special menu deal where for £24.99 you can choose up to four tapas dishes per person, or if you prefer, a small plate to start and a main course. The menu has also had a bit of an upgrade, with some more innovative dishes added to the traditional and delicious tapas I have come to know and love about this restaurant. We decide to go for the small plate option. There are plenty of dishes to choose from the comprehensive menu so we take our time to decide while Rudolph, our lovely friendly waiter, brings us some punch-packing garlic and chilli olives and freshly-baked bread with a creamy yet potent alioli to nibble on. Even though this is the busiest night of the week, Rudolph is more than happy to take time to help us choose so we are not disappointed, and ends up sitting and chatting with us before heading off with our order.
Our first plates arrive as the Flamenco show begins. We started with Padron peppers, a favourite of ours, which were plump and juicy and seasoned with just the right amount of sea salt to bring out the flavour. Chorizo ala sidra (chorizo cooked in cider) which had a lovely delicate smoky flavour and was of an obvious high quality and expertly cooked, with fat dissolved, leaving a nice meaty sausage covered in cider sauce that had a lovely tang.
Our veggie dishes came out next; Butternut squash croquettes with a crisp shell revealing a decadent gooey cheese and sweet fruit centre which was heavenly. Then followed the classic side tapas “patatas bravas” which were lovely and crisp and drizzled in a punchy spicey tomato sauce, and “artichoke al Limon” a new addition to the menu which I was sucked in by and had to try. Plump grilled artichoke hearts came next, drizzled in a lemon sauce and served with garlic bread to mop up. The earthiness of the artichoke was surprisingly complimented by the zesty lemon sauce and this dish really worked well in its own right, as well as being a great pallet cleanser between plates.
The Flamenco was really getting going now. What used to be a two piece act is now a full on band with a variety of instruments and incredibly talented and highly expressive and hypnotic dancer. Every table was getting involved and clapping along with them, and people were even getting up to dance. The atmosphere in the room was electric and infectious and everyone seemed to be having a lovely time.
The plates kept on coming too, next up lovely plump and tender peeled black tiger prawns cooked in white wine, garlic and chilli which were soon devoured and the sauce mopped up with any remaining bread we had. The Barbecue pork baby ribs which had come recommended by Rudolph were just flawless! The were slow cooked to perfection, so the meat fell off the bone with a tangy and sticky finger lickin’ good barbecue sauce.
The last plate to come out I had all to myself. An acquired taste and a surprising non-traditional addition to the menu. It was Sautéed chicken liver, mustard and creamy tarragon sauce. I could not resist ordering it as I absolutely love chicken liver, and this was some of the best I have tasted. The sauce made no attempt to hide the powerful taste of the meat and only added a wonderful complexity to the party. I wolfed them down, again mopping it all up with the accompanying toasted bread. At the end of the night I complimented Sandra on this delicious heady dish and she proudly proclaimed it was her idea to add it to the menu, and is actually Portuguese in origin so the owners were reluctant go with it. I am certainly glad they did!
We washed it all down with a couple of speciality bespoke potent cocktails and a jug of sangria, and then relaxed with some liqueur coffees at the end of the evening which may account for us being a little wobbly on our way out. We had a lovely time in what turned out to be nothing short of a fiesta! Ole ole is a wonderful immersive experience with lots of clapping and dancing and incredible delicious plates of food to boot! If Flamenco is not your thing then go and enjoy the food with special offers on throughout the week. A trip to Ole Ole simply cannot be missed. Tony Shattell