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When food meets art: a night at The Olsen

Warning: Art and leisure were involved in the making of this blog.

Warning: Art and leisure were involved in the making of this blog.

More information about The Olsen can be found here.

Hotels. They serve as a bed and resting place for corporate travelers and a wonderful escape for couples weary of their everyday routine. They are a place for romantic rendezvous’ and, in many movies, feature as a classic murder-mystery starting point.
Art galleries, however, have a much more favourable light shone upon them. Synonymous with culture, class and good taste, attending an art exhibition often exudes a level of superiority. What happens, then, when you combine a superior hotel that absorbs the vision and aesthetics of an artist? Well, as expected, the result is a level of elitism that could only result in envy and awe from your friends. Is that what the Art Series Hotels were hoping to achieve with their hotels The Cullen, The Blackman and The Olsen? Perhaps not, but we feel that it certainly doesn’t hurt their reputation!

We were invited to spend a night at The Olsen and enjoy a room service dinner from Spoonbill, their gourmet restaurant. In the morning, we were invited to have breakfast with the one and only Maggie Beer (post soon to come!) as part of the upcoming Good Food & Wine Show. Miss SL took on this ‘difficult’ task of basking in a night of luxury accommodation in one of the The Olsen‘s Deluxe Suites [~$271 p/night] and experiencing a guided tour of The Olsen‘s Art Gallery.

What’s important to know about The Olsen, and in fact, all hotels managed as part of the Art Series Hotels, is that the hotels are designed to honor and even embody the artist they are celebrating. In this case, the hotel honors the work of Sydney-born artist John Olsen, who is now approximately 85 years old and still painting! Wowsers!

John Olsen is renowned for his aerial paintings of the Australian landscape, highlighting an abundance of life despite somewhat barren grounds. He himself described his work as “an exploration of the totality of landscape”. His work explores dry land, creeks and lakes and even food! In fact the symbol for The Olsen – often mistaken as a shining sun – is in fact a bowl of paella! YUM!

Understanding the artist that inspires The Olsen is important when experiencing the food. Even the hotel restaurant Spoonbill, is named after the bird which features in so much of Olsen’s work. After the art tour (see end of post for additional hotel pictures) it was dinner time and selections had to be made. I opted for the Crispy chicken, cos lettuce, harissa mayo taco [usually $6.50 + once off room service fee] for entrée and a serve of John Olsen’s famous paella [usually $30] for main.

While I waited for my meal to arrive, I decided to start with dessert first, helping myself to a goodie bag provided by Burch & Purchese Sweets Studio. It contained their incredible Popcorn Honeycomb Rubble [$12], B&P’s Famous Gold Bullion Bars [$9] and a Milk Chocolate & Fruit Lollipop [$5.50]. My favourite by far was the bullion bars – the lustrous gold dusting and gooey, lightly coloured salted caramel was too good to be true!

Left: Popcorn Honeycomb Rubble, Right: Milk Chocolate & Fruit Lollipop

My meal arrived and I was one happy chappy. Whilst I felt a little cheated that I was served a single taco (the menu suggested multiple – ‘tacos’), it was beautifully made. The chicken was deep-fried and super crunchy, maintaining a beautifully juicy texture inside. The harissa mayonnaise added a lovely kick to the dish, maintaining overall harmony.

Left: Crispy chicken, cos lettuce, harissa mayo taco, Right: John Olsen’s famous paella

The first thing I noticed about the paella was how smokey the initial flavour was. As the grains of rice seeped into my taste buds, they gave way to earthy flavours that rose on my palate. The mussels were really fresh and by no means lost within this dish. The distinct flavours of the mussels resulted in a refreshing burst of flavour that broke up the humble flavours of the paella.

John Olsen’s famous paella

Spoonbill managed to provide a beautiful paella – which is by no means a small feat. The rooms at The Olsen were beautiful and spacious, allowing ample space to dutifully check your emails on the nearby couch or enjoy a meal on the tastefully modern yet subtle dining table. What The Olsen managed to provide was not only a bed to rest, but a place to escape and enjoy.

Final thought: “Where food meets art – and life escapes reality”

The rooms at The Olsen were cleverly designed, encapsulating the serenity of John Olsen’s artwork.There are over 800 pieces scattered throughout the hotel, with the rooms containing digital reprints and public areas containing originals.


In the rooms, the theme is at its best. The beds are backed by frosted glass with Olsen’s artwork. When the lights in the main room were lit, it created a beautiful decorative wall when you entered the bathroom. For those with little art experience, there are books available in the room should you choose to learn a bit more about the artist.

Mini bar treats

The Deluxe Suite had a glorious view of facing the north side of Chapel street, facing Richmond.

Food in pictures

2 Comments on When food meets art: a night at The Olsen

  1. I’ve often dreamt about staying in their fabulous hotels!

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  1. Good Food & Wine with Maggie Beer | Brunch Addict

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