If you search on the Tripadvisor website for vegetarian restaurants in Funchal, you’ll find Olives Restaurant on top. The restaurant has just received the certificate of excellence. It is not a vegetarian restaurant, but has a separate vegetarian menu with even vegan options. According to reports on the internet the restaurant recently moved. It’s now located on the third floor of a nearly empty mall on the busy Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot, near the Mercado dos Lavradores. Because of that it has a nice terrace with view to the port.
Inside, the restaurant is situated around the open stairwell, resulting in contact with almost the entire building. An interesting location you might say. The kitchen is open and considering the decoration with beautiful and immaculately laid tables and calm colors, this restaurant takes quality seriously. Although we as a tourist really did not enter the restaurant in our beach garb, the restaurant therefore looks a bit chic. In the background sounds pleasant jazzy music.
We are warmly welcomed by – what seems – the cook himself. We try if we want to sit outside on the terrace, but the wind makes us choose a place inside. On this Wednesday evening in June, it is not crowded; only two other couples are here, while the restaurant has about 50 seats.
We are offered the regular menu which is stuck on black paper, the loose vegetarian menu and the wine list. The vegetarian menu includes five starters and five main courses. By using local produce, interesting combinations, no ready-made meat substitutes (except for tofu), and just that little bit of extra like a cheese crocant, onion marmalade and homemade sauces, almost all are original dishes which I’m very curious about. But unfortunately, we have to choose. My table companion is a pescetarian and chooses the smoked salmon rolls to start with. He is being advised in his choice of wine, which is formally presented and first poured out for a taste. I decide to take the vegan salad of avocado and tamarillo with hot chili sauce.
The salad is a picture; a perfect turret of diced avocado and tamarillo. On top are some leaves of frisee and lollo rosso, and the pulpy chili sauce with chopped basil is draped around the turret. The combination of savory avocado, light sweet tamarillo and spicy sauce tastes like a charm. It is not heavy, so that all space is left for the main course.
As a main course I choose the crispy seeded bun filled with a chickpeas, roasted pumpkin and organic tofu stew served with a confetti of chayote and turnip. This is also a vegan dish. My dinner companion let me also determine the second main course which I’m curious about, so we can try another. It will be the sun dried tomato risotto.
The filled bun is a winner. It’s a plate full and the bun itself is generously filled and flavored with a broth-like sincerity. We are not familiar with chayote, but it is a delicious vegetable. The firm flesh is ideal for stir frying and seasoning.
Unfortunately the risotto can not please us. It is too wet and the brown color does not look very appetizing. The salty savory flavor is too dominant which make the sundried tomatoes to not come into their own. Instead of this risotto soup we would rather have tried one of the other innovative dishes.
But luckily there is the dessert that makes us forget the little slip. They are true works of art. My tiny piece of passionfruit cheesecake lies elegant in the middle of a rectangular plate and is decorated with little pieces of fresh fruit, mint and the typical Madeiran sugar syrup mel de cana. The fruit salad of my companion is like a painting; thin slices of fresh melon, grapes, strawberry, pear and peach are draped like small fans around a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Here no frills with syrup, but pure vitamins.
We didn’t manage to eat again at Olives to try something else from the menu. Olives Restaurant stands out of vegetarian restaurants in a particular way and is undoubtedly unique in the Mediterranean. A must for any vegetarian or vegan in Funchal!