Delhi and Olive Bar & Kitchen are a match made in culinary heaven. The Mediterranean-themed restaurant has hosted many memories over the years, from birthdays to engagement parties, get-togethers and patch-ups. The restaurant was the silent spectator for so many events in our lives – to meeting the loves of your lives, to short-lived spats among friends to date nights that never worked out to the ones that eventually did. Holding fort for 15 years now, Olive is an icon in itself. Constantly evolving over the years — cue the new Grammar Room and Serai bar — and bringing forth impeccable experiences consistently, the restaurant is synonymous with everything good that the capital offers. And no surprises there as it comes from the restaurant mogul, AD Singh’s treasure trove of culinary gems. As the Bar & Kitchen celebrates a successful decade and a half in the city, we get the man of the moment himself to take us down the memory lane. Here’s Singh reminiscing and sharing thoughts on the 15 years and his journey with this iconic place.
As we celebrate 15 years of stories, the one that remains closest to me is of my 20th wedding anniversary. Back in 2003, the team had lit up the gravel walkway with candles, and I could feel the magic from the driveway. I can remember that feeling even now. That was November 3, and three weeks later, we opened on November 23.
The haveli wasn’t a planned address for Olive. The landlord here loved it and thought it would make for a nice restaurant. We got chatting, I came to meet him and we got along pretty well. Though I’d come in September  to say no to the place, I was charmed the moment I stepped in. By then he’d done some much-needed work and set up the space, and even put out candles to woo me…and I could see an Olive right here. We opened two months after that, definitely one of the quickest projects we put together!
In the old days when we’d just opened, every table used to host Delhi’s coolest set. One day there was unseasonal rain and the boys were running around to get things in order. Through all this we noticed this one lady at the door waiting patiently and quietly, it was Sonia Gandhi. We were surprised and apologetic and she was very gracious about it.
We had some strange stories about rave parties at Olive too. This was 2006 and it was everywhere, newspapers, television shows…that we were Delhi’s number one restaurant. Of course, we were bringing in the numbers but we were suddenly shut down because of these uncalled-for rumours. While we opened at Hotel diplomat for a while, it wasn’t the same. During that time, the one thing I’m very proud of is that we kept our staff on, paid them their full salary including tips, and in about nine months months managed to make a comeback. That says something about our company. And we’ve realised that a lot of people keep coming here because they’re so well received. They say the strengths, weaknesses, personality of the owner shows in their product, and we like to treat out staff and diners as family.
One thing I love about our patrons is the loyal following. We have people coming here for 15 years – in this age when people are so fickle and social media can woo you to new places, such loyalty is a great trait to possess. If there is one thing I’d hate about the diners, it’s those that come here and treat our servers like servants. They’re quite rude and we’ve always been very particular about avoiding those kinds.
We’re one of India’s pioneer restaurant groups to open chef-driven restaurants, with partnerships and sub-schemes. Also, we spend a lot of time on getting the concept right and have always worked hard for freshness and innovation. We have realised that as long as you continue to have that passion for food and attention to detail, you can continue as is for years to come. What plans to I envision for Olive after these 15 years? The goal is simple. we are looking to open 100 restaurants by 2022, we’ll opening our own in metros and franchising in tier II and tier III cities.
I’m really proud that Olive and our sister restaurants have really paved our path in India’s culinary story, and nobody can take away what we’ve achieved and contributed. What gives me a lot of satisfaction is that so many people have their own stories here, many important instances in their lives happened here. From date nights to engagement parties to post-wedding and christening celebrations, we’ve come full circle. A lady who moved to Bombay from Los Angeles said that she would’ve left India long ago if it weren’t for Olive! This is the difference a good restaurant can make in people’s lives, you know.
All images: Courtesy brand