Disclaimer: I was invited to review the below restaurant and our meal was complimentary but all opinions and photos are mine.
A few weeks ago, we were hosted by Olley’s Fish Experience, a fish and seafood restaurant located in Herne Hill, South London, opposite Brockwell Park.
Olley’s is a bit of an institution. It started life as a humble fish and chips takeaway back in 1987. 32 years later, the original fish and chips shop still exists next door doing roaring business every day. Owner Harry, originally born in Melbourne, moved to the UK and decided to expand his single table takeaway when an opportunity presented itself to purchase the property next door. He renovated the entire space to create the restaurant we see today. He named it Olley’s (after his favourite Dickensian character Oliver Twist) and for the last 25 years Olley’s Fish Experience has been going from strength to strength, blossoming into a casual restaurant as well as branching out into catering, weddings and events.
We liked the trad-rustic, ornate, almost medieval look on the inside of the restaurant. There were swathes of warm woods, wooden floorboards, exposed brick walls and coloured tiles. The cavernous double height space was further broken down into cozy nooks with tall backed chairs to create a more intimate dining experience. Although I do wish they swap the LED candles for real ones to make it more atmospheric.
Olley’s is also the recipient of several awards. They have consistently gained recognition at the National Fish and Chips Awards, including being in the UK Top 10 Fish and Chips Shops in 2019 which is a massive achievement. Most importantly, they have won accolades for being a sustainable fish restaurant from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). All their suppliers are MSC Certified fisheries, chosen for their quality, accreditation and accountability. They get fresh fish delivered everyday except Sunday so you are guaranteed to get the best and freshest of produce.
For our dinner, we tucked into a range of their starters including Calamari, Fish Cakes, Mussels, King Prawns and a Prawn Cocktail.
The Calamari was a pretty decent version. The thin, crispy coating on the outside had a healthy shine to it without tasting oily on the palate. The quality of the giant squid inside was top-notch. The presentation, however, could have been a bit more slick.
The Homemade MSC Fish Cake (MSC Cod, MSC Prawns, MSC Smoked Haddock) was very well-executed too. It had just the perfect amount of light batter to compliment the filling without overpowering it.
The Mussels, cooked in a white wine sauce, were plump and flavourful. The flesh on them was noticeably creamier than what I have tasted in other places.
Harvey’s MSC Prawn Cocktail (Finest most succulent “Royal Greenland” North Atlantic MSC Prawns, served on a bed of fresh, crisp, iceberg lettuce, topped with Olley’s home-made ‘secret recipe’ Marie Rose Sauce) was the unanimous staff favourite and I can see why. It was an oldie but a goodie!
My personal favourite from the starter section was undoubtedly the MSC King Prawns served in garlic butter. Five shelled, decent-sized prawns, enlivened in the puddle of buttery, garlicky goodness, was a dish of pure joy. You don’t need to do much with this dish as the ingredients speak for themselves.
Our starters were followed by the headline act – the Fish and Chips. We tried three kinds – Cod, Haddock and Hake (from Cornish waters) – all MSC Certified. They were accompanied by bowls of tartar sauce, mushy peas and coleslaw, all freshly home-cooked. The portions of the fish were proper sized too.
The pastry was perfectly pitched, cooked to a golden brown, crunchy perfection that didn’t feel super calorific. You can tell that their batter recipe has been tried, tested and perfected over time. Inside each batter was a chunky piece of good quality fish: fresh, silky, flaky and piping hot, falling apart under the knife.
If you are not a fan of fried food, Olley’s also do a grilled version of all their fish. We tried some grilled Sea Trout. This fish is similar to salmon but sweeter and creamier, and less ‘fishy’ in taste. I am not the biggest fan of salmon so this bode well for me.
I loved their mash and although it was slightly under-seasoned for my taste, the texture was soft and velvety, just the way I like it.
In terms of service, it was an all out homely affair. The affable staff have been working there for aeons and are as equally passionate and invested as their owner. This is one tight team operation that are fully supportive of each other.
Harry’s vision is to continue working with the right suppliers and take Olley’s Fish Experience to the next level of success, including someday winning the Champions title at the National Fish and Chips Awards. Their ethos is to feed their customers fresh, sustainably sourced, wholesome fish and seafood, whilst providing an upscale dining experience. Most importantly, he wants to showcase what excellent Fish and Chips looks like by using modern techniques to cook this very British classic.
Olley’s is justifiably popular within the local community and during our visit we could see why. It is time the rest of London knew about it as well!
Address | 65 – 69 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, SE24 9AA, London