IT seemed like everyone in the restaurant was queuing up to get a photo with their host.
And like the classic showman, Elliott Wright was only too happy to oblige, working the tables like a scene out of The Hustler.
A gag here, a compliment there, the Costa del Sol’s most famous restaurateur was showing clearly why he’s a lot more than just another vacuous celebrity out of TOWIE, the UK’s bizarre, yet extremely popular reality TV series.
But that is, after all, the point.
While Elliott became popular as the handsome ‘alpha-male’ cousin of key character Mark Wright, he was originally introduced as being a restaurateur from Spain.
And on that score nothing has changed.
For aside from this stunning new spot in La Cala, he has another restaurant, Eduardos, now running for 15 years, in Orihuela, on the Costa Blanca.
Opening it at the age of 21, he has worked with the same manager Carol for 15 years and the place regularly gets 200 diners a day.
So how about Olivia’s, where over the last six months Elliott has sunk up to 3m euros into the venture?
Well, if you are after glamour, then it doesn’t get much better. The restaurant, named after his son, is beautifully designed, maximising natural light, wonderful sea views and top-of-the-range recessed lighting, which ‘cost a fortune’, reveals Elliott.
The candle-lit tables are as welcoming as Elliott’s stunning girlfriend, who is standing in as Maitre D on the night we visit.
There’s a big white piano, entertainment every night, shiny, happy staff and a fabulous outdoor dining terrace.
“I’ve also just spent 50 grand on a new fish bar,” he explains, leading me up to the wonderful champagne bar upstairs, which will soon be serving lobster and caviar to help wash down the Moet & Chandon.
So far so good, but can he cut the mustard in the kitchen?
And the answer is a definitive ‘yes’, and a big surprise for me, expecting the place to be high on bling, but a little low on quality.
The first thing to note is the large Asian influence on the menu, inspired by Elliott’s love of the Far East and his favourite restaurant in London, Nobu.
I am quickly diving into a super starter of Maplewood smoked tuna, with Japanese tea noodles and organic black sesame with Wasabi foam.
There’s scallops with lentils and dahl, pork spring rolls with shredded Asian vegetables, tempura prawns, but next up is a fabulous Miso cod, with pickled ginger imported from Japan.
It’s a lovely looking dish and a genuine surprise, succulent and with a great mix of flavours and vegetables.
We are then steered on Elliott’s advice to his classic pork belly, which comes out slightly spicy on a white platter, with cauliflower puree and Burgos black pudding. The Japanese ‘cherry apples’ are the icing on the cake, and an exciting first for me.
Pudding-wise, there wasn’t much to write home about, although the lemongrass creme brulee was surprisingly tasty.
So, whaddaya know, Olivia’s turns out to be the perfect refuelling stop between Malaga and Gibraltar and, with places like this, La Cala might just have a stab at becoming a genuine foil to the glamour and glitz of Marbella. It won’t be from a lack of effort on the part of Mr Wright.
Oh, and yes, I did get the obligatory picture, as you can see.
• Olivia’s La Cala, Calle Torreon, La Cala de Mijas, www.oliviaslacala.com Tlf: 952494935