The Laid-Back Comforts Of Olta
Scotsman Jamie Wakeford and wife Helen opened Olta at the beginning of the year. The couple, who previously ran Bampot Kitchen in Phuket, named the restaurant with a Gaelic word that loosely means pleasantly inebriated. It hints at their laid-back sense of humour (as does bampot, which in the Glaswegian vernacular refers to a foolish or crazy person) and the sort of ambience they want to create at Olta, one that is relaxed and informal, inviting and fun.
This the couple are doing with aplomb. In a few short months, the restaurant has become part of the fabric of hip Soi Suan Phlu, joining more established eateries and bars such as Kombawa, Junker and Smalls. With its beautifully lit copper-topped bar, plush banquettes and moody soundtracks, Olta is a great place to end the working day with convivial drinks and toothsome snacks with friends and colleagues or a more substantial intimate dinner for two.
Wakeford trained in the kitchens of well-known fine dining restaurants such as Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck at Bray and Gordon Ramsey’s Maze Grill in London and while he values the experience, he says that sort of dining is not what he is aiming for with Olta. “What we are trying to do is present the great flavours of British cuisine in a relaxed, contemporary way. But we are serious about quality local produce. We try to buy from cooperatives, small producers who look after the land and sea. For example, we have very good connections with fishing communities on Phuket and Koh Lanta from our time at Bampot Kitchen. They know if they catch a particularly good king mackerel, tuna, rock cod, whatever, we’ll take it and pay a very fair price. We’ll work out how best to use the fish on the menu and then it’s ‘on until it’s gone’ as we like to say.”
That menu, which Wakeford switches up every couple of weeks with one or two new dishes, includes tasty UK-inspired bar snacks such as scotch egg made with pork belly sausage and quail egg, Irish oysters in lime and coconut foam, and a fish finger sandwich of tender sole with tartar sauce in an intriguing black steamed bun. These delights and others are perfect accompaniments for a heady original cocktail, a chilled glass of excellent draft Whale Pale Ale Thai craft beer, or one of the many gratifyingly priced red, white and sparkling wines available by the bottle and glass.
Heartier still are plate offerings such as foie gras and ham hock terrine, which has a fine balance of textures and a subtle smoky flavour from the ham, and king mackerel crudo, a green dream comprising slices of locally-caught raw mackerel served with whey blended with spring onion oil, river moss, cucumber and celery. It has a wonderfully sharp tang and feels as if it is doing you good even as you eat it. Also exquisite is a piece of pork belly cooked to an amazing crispy-skin crunch on the outside but with a velvety succulence on the inside. It is served with a fantastic lightly curried carrot puree and a silky sour jus.
It is unusual to discover a new eatery that ticks all the boxes off the bat but with its focus on quality, flavour innovation and reasonable pricing, plus its sincere desire to provide a fun vibe, Olta has all the ingredients to become one of Suan Phlu’s leading lifestyle landmarks.
101/11 Soi Suan Phlu, Sathorn (Parking available at Somerset Park condominium)
Open daily 6pm-midnight
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