Olive has rock-star status in Wellington’s cafe scene and, like any good rock star, it has a rich but fraught history. When Jamie Morgan took ownership with friends Ferdi and Carlo Petagna in 2014 he saved this iconic cafe from closing its doors after the cafe’s second liquidation.
It’s a tough space to make work efficiently, and yet that is equally part of its charm. Numerous alcoves and secret spaces give it a sense of intimacy despite being a 100-seat restaurant. Its courtyard is by far Wellington’s best kept secret. Or maybe it’s just so well hidden that many Wellingtonians still aren’t aware it exists at all. In this wild rambling tropical garden with crystal chandeliers hanging from the trees and huge candelabras you might feel as though you’re in the back streets of Cuba the country, not downtown Cuba the street.
Jamie’s raw unbridled talent saw him working in his first kitchen as a teenager, moving quickly up the ranks so that at the age of 21 he was sous chef to Rex Morgan at the famed Citron on Willis Street. Reaching that level so soon in his career, and not ready to own his own restaurant, this boy from Wainuiomata felt a pull to get out of Wellington. He landed in Australia and over the next 12 years cooked at some of Australia’s top restaurants, including running hospitality juggernaut Justin Hemmes’ private dining room. But the 100-hour working weeks, and more importantly family, brought Jamie back home. His partner Alice Tuhoy was working at Olive at the time and they were looking for a chef.
Jamie, who initially thought he’d never fit in at this long-standing cafe, ended up completely transforming the kitchen with his fine-dining discipline, professionalism and systems. It proved too much for many of the staff and they lost seven chefs in the process, but with that came the loyalty of those who stayed behind — seven chefs have now been with him for over two years. That training and longevity is key for Jamie, not only to get the best out of his staff and upskill his junior chefs, but also for the future of New Zealand cuisine.
It takes a lot of skill to bring this type of high-end food to the cafe style of eating — from cheese scones to aged beef, from coffee in the morning to port at the end of the night — but Olive now has the right guy at the helm to pull it off, and he’s put in the hard yards to get it there. After four years, Jamie now has nights off. He’s even thinking about taking a holiday.
Olive's Chicken Sausage Brunch
¼ onion, thinly sliced
5–7 black peppercorns
1 whole allspice
4 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
½ tsp fennel seeds
1kg chicken mince, ideally a mix of thigh and breast
pinch of cayenne pepper
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
butter, for cooking
sea salt, to taste
truffle pecorino (optional)
To make the milk stock, bring all ingredients to simmer over a medium heat in a large pan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain into a jug and set aside to cool.
To toast the fennel seeds, place in a 160°C oven for 5 minutes or until aromatic. Mix all the sausage ingredients, along with the cooled milk stock, thoroughly in a large bowl. Fry up a small amount of mixture in a pan to check the seasoning; adjust if necessary. Divide into cylinder-shaped portions of 130g and wrap in clingfilm. Roll into a sausage shape around 15cm long (you should get 7–8 sausages). Use a skewer to pop any air bubbles, then roll again to seal the holes and secure the ends of the clingfilm to ensure that the sausage meat doesn’t leak out.
Bring a saucepan of water to 80°C on a thermometer. Poach the sausages for 25 minutes, then check that the sausages are cooked — the internal sausage temperature should be 72°C.
Heat a frying pan with a dash of olive oil. Unwrap the sausages and fry for 5 minutes, until golden and warmed through.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and cream together in a large bowl. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over low heat and add the eggs. Using a spatula, stir gently to scramble and, once the eggs start to thicken, add another knob of butter and salt to taste and cook until the desired texture is reached.
Lay the scrambled eggs on sliced, buttered sourdough toast. Carve each sausage into 8–10 slices (or serve whole if you like) and place atop the eggs. Shave over some truffle pecorino, if using, and garnish with freshly snipped chives and a dollop of crème fraîche.
You can freeze any leftover sausages for brunch the following weekend.
NOTE: We use bread from Leed’s Street Bakery. Truffle pecorino is available from Ontrays.