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This Restaurant is the Best Alternative to a Barcelona Food Trip

Olivia Restaurant and Lounge is a new favorite of food lovers in Singapore, a Spanish restaurant that gives guests an unforgettable eating experience.
Olivia is the new restaurant in Singapore that takes you on a food journey to Spain. Photo by author

When I last visited Barcelona, I was so keen to eat my way through the city that I booked a highly-reviewed food tour. The tour started with a chilled glass of cava at Santa Caterina market before walking through side streets to enjoy tapas in a Basque eatery, a traditional Catalan bodega, and a popular restaurant in a cave-like space with the most exquisite jamón ibérico.

The tour guide talked about the city’s history and culture in addition to the origins of our dishes, and discussed how traditions influenced the food we were eating. I still dream about that tour, and have many times considered returning to Barcelona for a repeat.


Alas, Barcelona is not an easy or cheap trip from Singapore, and I've long had to settle for mediocre paella and warm cava. So when I walked past a new Spanish restaurant on Keong Saik Road – a bustling Singapore street with a slew of amazing restaurants – it went right to the top of my eating list.

Olivia Restaurant and Lounge is named after the daughter of co-founder and chef Alain Devahive – who has had a decade’s experience in Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famed elBulli Restaurant. Entering its doors feels like being transported right back to Barcelona. The interiors exude the spirit of the city straight away – no surprise, since every single piece in the restaurant was flown in from Barcelona. It’s a vibrant mix of exposed brick and handmade painted ceramics on the walls, a collage of sculptures and pots, and pillows reminiscent of the Mediterranean. The ambiance is so cozy, it feels like eating at a friend's house.


The interiors of Olivia Restaurant and Lounge. Photo courtesy of Olivia

But the most unique feature is its open kitchen right in the center of the restaurant, where guests are treated to the energy and adrenaline of the meal preparations and the hustle and bustle of the chef and his staff.

Yet the interior is only a teaser to the authenticity and specialness of the food. My table was briefed through every dish by Operations Head Miquel Sabrià, the former Michelin Sommelier of Catalunya Restaurant in Hong Kong and Singapore. From the divine jamón ibérico de bellota – ham from free-range pigs who eat “7 kilos of acorn a day” and “live like kings” – to the red snapper, an ode to coastal areas in Spain, Sabrià’s background information was a welcome history lesson to Spanish cuisine and culture, and a treat in itself.


During the meal, we had a slew of dishes from croquettes to cured anchovies to paella. These were among the highlights:

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota


Jamón ibérico de bellota as served at Olivia. Photo by the author

Okay, so it wasn't cooked by the chef but I need to include this because it has to be known that this is a place where you can find top-tier jamón ibérico de bellota. The type that strikes your palate with it's distinct mix of oiliness and nuttiness. The type that stays with you. I cannot look at this photo without drooling. This jamón, as Sabrià said, is among the best in the world – and the taste proved him right.

Spherical Olives


The spherical olives are a tribute to elBulli Restaurant. Photo by author

The spherical olives are Chef Alain's tribute to elBulli Restaurant – where the molecular gastronomy recipe was created by Ferran Adria. It was an unforgettable appetizer – just like its restaurant of origin. Along with the taste, what I distinctly remember is the experience of eating it: it bursts in your mouth, an explosion of delicious juices and oil. The creation of it too, of course, is a marvel: it's made through a spherification process that takes olive juice and makes it look like a solid green olive using various ingredients.

Suckling Pig Terrine


Suckling Pig Terrine at Olivia. Photo by author

This cold dish packs a slew of surprises. The flavors in one bite were so diverse – from the pig, to the eggs, to the ravigote sauce – but also deliciously delicate. As terrines go, they can be made to be as simple or as complex as the creator deems fit, but this one was somehow both: plain and palatable at the same time.


Roasted Meat Canelon with Parmesan Cream


Roasted Meat Canelon with Parmesan Cream. Photo by author.

This fully-packed canelon had a strong kick – thanks to the parmesan cream – and was my personal favorite. The canelon, said Sabrià, is one of the most traditional Christmas recipes in Catalonia and is often eaten the day after Christmas – traditionally created from the holiday's leftovers. Olivia's version of it is to-die-for: a perfect amalgam of roasted meat with crepe, beef cheek, foie gras, chicken, beef jus, and basil oil. It's flawlessly topped with white truffle – which takes it to a whole different level.

Grilled Fresh Catch of the Day with Onions and Garlic


Grilled red snapper with onions and garlic. Photo courtesy of Olivia

This dish’s presentation takes your breath away the moment it hits the table – and transports you right to the ocean. It's cooked with simple ingredients: garlic, onions, butter, but the light and freshness of it is what sticks with you even days after. A must for seafood lovers.

I also must mention the "Ibiza" Style Monkfish and Mediterranean Red Prawns, a luscious suquet or Catalan seafood stew which I deeply enjoyed in all its fresh, tangy glory, and the perfect ending to my food trip: Olivia's Creamy Homemade Cheesecake. That cake was so delicious, I wasn't able to take a photo. The cake is a result of numerous attempts to recreate a cheesecake Sabrià had in San Sebastian which resulted in years of iteration to find the right mixture and type of cheeses. Today, it's made of cream and blue cheese with almond sable – and probably better than the original.

A meal in Olivia is, expectedly, pricey. All mains are between SGD $29-$69 – except for the fish that is priced at $108 – while the starters are about SGD $20-$30… and it's impossible to have just one. For most, a visit would be a treat – better suited for special occasions or a once in a while indulgence. But I'm already planning my return. The experience – from the service to the food – is world-class, worth it, and frankly unforgettable.

And hey, it’s cheaper than a flight to Barcelona.

The author was invited to a tasting at Olivia, but the opinions are the author's own.