This Stokey staple draws in a keen breakfast and daytime crowd with its Mediterranean menu and relaxed café culture.
El Olivo competes with the many cafés littered on Stoke Newington’s ever-changing Church Street, but it has the unique appeal of a Spanish theme, and the eponymous juicy green olive used on signage announces it to the neighbourhood. Despite the café’s small size, El Olivo spans three floors, with an intimate dining room downstairs, a larger café floor on ground level and a balcony of seating above. Dark wooden tables and chairs and tiled floors offer a rustic charm and a few traditional Mediterranean objects decorate the walls.
Despite a loose Spanish decorative theme, tapas and Mediterranean menu options and Flamenco music on a loop, El Olivo doesn’t quite achieve authenticity. The place feels a tad too formal for this and the menu has been adapted to cater for a hankering for British café staples. Staff struggle to raise a smile and can often be too caught up in conversation to respond to your gaze with any haste, but as long as you’re in no rush that can allow for a very Mediterranean pace to proceedings. Families and couples are the usual market of clientele stopping by for brunch or for tapas in the evening.
Brunch options are very appealing and come in huge portions, all at £5.95 – you’ll be hard pushed to find a better breakfast bargain in the area. And dishes are decently executed, although not especially refined. The El Olivo breakfast is worth knowing about though, with chorizo and Spanish omelette thrown into the equation. For a sweeter option that also keeps things Spanish, chocolate con churros (£3.95) is available, too. But brunch traditionalists will be pleased with a Full English or eggs Benedict (£5.95).
Lunchtime options are a bit more confusingly broad in scope, with wraps, rolls, bruschetta, burgers and jacket spuds taking on a more England Vs the Med approach. However, all options are fresh, flavoursome and at a bargain buck, a burger with salad and wedges at £5.75, an interesting range of wraps all at £5.25 and an appealing halloumi salad at £5.95.
But the tapas are where it’s really at, with a gobsmacking range of 80 plates to pick from. With so many menu options, some dishes are more accomplished than others, but tapas fans will without a doubt be able to get a feel for their favourite Spanish dish, with prices ranging from a reasonable £3 up to £7 per plate. And although it won’t be the best tapas you try in town, the dishes are reasonably authentic. Patatas bravas are suitably fiery, chorizo is of good quality, and the tortilla Espanola is rich and decently stodgy. Regional dishes also make an appearance like pulpo a la Galega (octopus with potatoes) and costillas ibericas – ribs taken from the famous black boar pigs of Extremadura. Sharing selections are also available, as well as a few paella options for two or more people.
While during the day El Olivo is all about coffees, night time gives way to a good wine selection at the same reasonable pricing standard set by the food menu.
The Last Word
El Olivo sits proudly on Church Street and with good reason, too – it rivals many of the cafés in the vicinity with its original Spanish theme and although it may not be the most authentic tapas experience, its keen prices keep locals sweet.