Cheap Eats / Food & Drink

Olas: Latin American in the Heart of Ponsonby Central

The food truck culture is one that continues to grow an avid following of local foodies, eager for new culinary experiences, and those looking to learn more about the different cultures and cuisines that make up our diverse city. Having challenged the perception that quality and flavours need to come from commercial kitchens, the food truck culture has brought to the surface a new wave of chefs. Those who may not have the same qualifications or years of experience as those in established restaurants, but could arguably be churning out some of the best food, due to their pure joy and passion for cooking, coupled with the traditional practices and recipes passed down from mothers, fathers, and grandparents. Without the barriers of large start up costs and logistics, food trucks allow some of the most authentic, traditional dishes to rise to the surface of Auckland’s foodie scene.

So when you see a food truck take up a permanent lease in a popular dining precinct, like Ponsonby Central, you know that whatever they’re cooking up in there must be the real deal. Olas was, and still is, a food truck specialising in South American cuisines. Off the back of their success with The Food Truck Collective, owners Sofia and Maurizio decided to open their Ponsonby spot a little over a year ago, offering their authentic dishes 7 days a week.

Sofia was born in Argentina and her husband Maurizio in Venezuela. Maurizio grew up in a family where everything was made from scratch, and that’s something that he passionately practices in his own kitchen. With a strong South American team behind them, including two Columbian chefs, and their Chilean front of house staff, Olas is confidently serving up the best Arepas in town.

Arepas are iconic to South American cuisine. Made from cornmeal I’d describe them as somewhere in between a Bao Bun and a burger. Olas offer three Aepas – classic, green, or red. The classic is 100% cornmeal and water, the green is made with kale and coriander, and the red with beetroot and chia seeds.

First they are grilled, then opened up to be filled with one of 13 different filling combinations. The most traditional is the Pabellon, shredded beef with fried sweet plantain, black beans, and feta cheese. Plantain is like a big banana and is a staple in South America. It was the first time I had heard of plantain, but gosh they’re yummy when sliced thinly and deep fried! The saltiness of the feta with the plantain created a sweet and savoury flavour to the dish. I absolutely recommend the Pabellon if you are new to South American food – an authentic, filling dish full of flavour.

If beef isn’t your thing then go for the Volvere with pulled pork, grilled halloumi, coleslaw, and plum sauce, or the Reina which is shredded chicken, smashed avo and mayo. If you are out and about for breakfast, switch up your weekend eggs bene for the Catira, with scrambled eggs, cheese with the choice to add bacon or for a heartier breakfast go for the Rumbera –  grilled chicken breast with a dijon glaze, streaky bacon and cheese or the Catira with scrambled eggs and cheese.

Back to the plantain, I don’t know how or why these aren’t a thing in New Zealand! We had the shredded beef Patacones which was like an open sandwich made with two large slices of fried plantain filled with cheese, beans, coleslaw and lots of guasacaca sauce and mojo mayo.

We also had the Tostones from the sides menu which were smaller slices of the fried plantain topped with fresh, crisp coleslaw and feta cheese.

I love sauce. I order extra sauce no matter what I am eating, whether it be extra Hoisin sauce with a bao bun, or extra truffle gravy for my mash – an extra serving is non negotiable. Olas, like me, love their sauce. They make all their sauces from scratch and the best part, they are free… all you can eat sauce! Their sauce trio is placed on the table next to all orders, so you can help yourself to their Jalapeno sauce, homemade Chimichurri, a traditional Argentinian sauce with olive oil, herbs and garlic or their Aioli.

Olas is a great spot to park up with a few friends, but only those who don’t mind sharing as this is the type of restaurant where you just want to order up and try it all. Add a traditional mango or passion fruit frappe with your mains or a Cocada, a coconut milkshake, for dessert. All made fresh.

So if you want to brush up on the Spanish you learnt at high school and immerse yourself amongst what is likely a less familiar cuisine, then keep an ear out for the Spanish music bursting down the lanes of Ponsonby Central – you can’t miss it!

Great for: Those nights where you don’t quite know what you feel like but know that you want something a little different, fun, tasty and with a relaxed yet bustling atmosphere.

Price: About $60 for two, including a few mains and sides, plus a frappe to finish.

Ambience & theming: I love the atmosphere around Ponsonby Central and with Olas located right by the laneway, you can enjoy the people watching while perched up at one of the bar tables.

Location: Ponsonby Central, 4 Brown St, Ponsonby

Opening hours: 11:30am – 8:30pm Monday to Sunday