Oliver Maki was a case of low food expectations. I had read very few positive things about the restaurant and days before the dinner, I started reading very negative comments on their food. (Someone even said: can’t you go somewhere else instead?) We were dining with our friends Claire and Matt but somehow, both Claire and I were feeling uninspired for alternatives (and shockingly the boys didn’t chip in) so we decided to wing it and hope for a positive experience.
We arrived at Oliver Maki before they did and killed some time with tasty Picante margaritas at Dean Street Townhouse where we inhaled the smell of good steak and drooled over steaming cheese soufflés that were being served. We considered sticking around but eventually crossed the street to the lacklustre ambiance of Oliver Maki. The vibe downstairs is NO VIBE, cafeteria meets cheap modern plasticky furniture, however the upstairs area has more of a normal restaurant atmosphere. We asked for a table upstairs and were told they would move us when a space was vacated.
We started with drinks, as I had heard that their cocktails were good. I guess they may have been drunk when they wrote that as they were in fact terrible. The caipirinha (I am a tough judge as the ones I make are the best) were 80% sugar and 20% the rest and the lychee martini didn’t even had a lychee on it, which is the best part. The wine was also not cold enough.
Their menu is on an iPad and it is one of the most stupid devices we have encountered. First of all, the menu is massive and when you click on an item, it pops a description but then when you click on something else, the previous item’s info vanishes. How am I supposed to remember if I liked the sound of the Fido versus the Oliver versus the Fusion? And then order with the waiter? It is a very annoying device and if a waiter came by and enlightened us with their knowledge and suggestions, maybe we could have ignored the device, but that wasn’t the case. So, we ended up ordering a bunch of things that sounded good but we all felt like we could have ordered better if we had a printed menu with descriptions.
What we ate:
Hamachi Chili: Thin slices of Hamachi in a ponzu sauce with green Jalapenos. This is a classic “Japanese” these days and seems to be on every menu form Nobu to Roka, etc. It was a decent version of it, nothing new or spectacular.
Forest Haze Salad: the salad was brought in a round aquarium looking glass with another one on top that contained the dressing and the waiter combined them at the table. The red quinoa, pine nuts, cranberry, cherry tomato and white mushroom salad was tossed with the dressing and the whole salad had a nice smoky flavour. Claire and I liked it more than the boys did.
Ceviche: with chunks of white fish and avocado. Quite decent but again, not amazing.
Fido Maki: filled with snow crab, midori rice (tobiko, spring onions) and spicy sauce – overall unremarkable.
Sushi pearls: all their sushi is made with brown rice which gives it a very subtle nutty flavour (but some people seating next to us seemed distressed it wasn’t white rice) and is served with a mix of soy and olive oil. The pearls are an assortment of their best nigiri presented in an acrylic box with drawers. I liked the drawer where the fish had been smoked and it was overall nice and original, but not nearly as good as the nigiri at Ikeda or UMU.
Sandi Maki: the best roll between the two – crabstick (why not real crab?), avocado, rocket, wrapped in a tempura filo, and topped with chopped salmon and spring onion.
Robata Miso Baby Chicken: we wanted something hot as we were still hungry and since they had run out of the wagyu fried rice (for £8…no wonder) we picked the saffron Mustard Baby chicken, which was rubbed in miso and saffron mustard and nicely grilled. Simple and tasty.
Miso aubergine: we were hoping for something absurdly tasty, like the one at Korobuta but this was totally soggy and not good at all.
Macha tiramisu: we lucked out and had one delivered to our table by mistake. They said that some people just photograph it and don’t eat it, they are missing out. We did both thankfully and it was very good. The coffee and matcha flavours worked well together and it was very creamy and not overly sweet.
Pain Perdu: we saw the couple next to us ordering it and devouring it and they said it was great so we decided to go for it instead of crossing the street and having dessert at Soho House, which was the original plan. The pain perdu was made with brioche bread and caramelized apples, caramel popcorn and vanilla ice cream and was a very generous portion. We asked for some extra caramel sauce as we (more precisely Stewart) like a lot of caramel on our sweets. Absolutely indulgent and gooey, warm and comforting.
In sum: The food at Oliver Maki is not bad but sadly, everything else disappoints. Very mediocre service and no vibe setting make this new Soho sushi spot a pass in my book despite the tasty desserts. Their menu on an iPad is also one of the most aggravating things I have encountered of late. They claim they change it often and its electronic for environmental reasons but a digital menu could be a lot more user friendly, with descriptions of each dish and maybe even pictures?