Randomness Guide to London - Differences between Version 9 and Version 8 of Providores And Tapa Room, W1U 4RX
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* [http://londoneater.com/2008/12/21/sunday-morning-at-the-providores-and-tapa-room-review/ Londoneater review]
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A restaurant with an unusual New Zealand-Asian fusion theme to the food, on Marylebone High Street.
There are two dining rooms at this restaurant. The downstairs one is the Tapa Room (not a reference to tapas, although they do have some smaller dishes), which is not bookable, crammed with tables, and fairly noisy at the best of times. Upstairs is the Providores, which is the fancy dining room, both bookable and more serene (though the prices reflect this). All the food on the menu is quite extensively described, and sounds overly fussy, though the effect is far from this.
On a visit in May 2008, the menu was not the easiest to read (there are no headings or dividers to make things clear, though the waiter was happy to explain), but is separated into starters, and then the vegetarian, fish, and meat main courses respectively, and finally the desserts. In each category, the food is listed from the smallest dishes to the largest (the price is the guide on this), so it is possible to order a number of smaller dishes or just one main.
The wine list which accompanies the menu is even more extensive, and focuses on New Zealand wines. There is an entire page just of NZ pinot noirs (in this case ranging from £25-£120 for a bottle, though there are cheaper wines elsewhere in the menu), and several pages at the end of non-NZ wines. The bottle of the most modestly-priced pinot noir (£25) was eminently drinkable, very smooth, with an intriguing spicy aftertaste.
On Ewan's visit, we started with the selection of bread (a very reasonable £2.80) with olive oil/balsamic vinegar for dipping, which was a slice of four different types of bread, all of them really quite spectacularly good. The best was served as a big wedge, and slightly warm.
For mains, I had the "orange and ginger marinated king oyster mushroom, chevre, cherry tomato and truffled chickpea puree bruschetta with green bean, soy pumpkin seeds, red onion and watercress salad" (£8.80) photo, which of course sounds far too elaborate and certainly when it came seemed to be. However, none of the flavours were dominant, and there were small surprises while eating (a brief strong taste of orange, for example). The "truffled chickpea puree" was basically hummous, but a very good one, and the oyster mushrooms were served in thin slices over the salad, all of it on top of a substantial slice of bread, very lightly toasted. The overall effect was excellent, and it tasted great. My companion's "crispy Thai style ham hock and quail salad with pickled carrot, fried garlic, hot and sour tamarind caramel dressing and coriander" (£8.90) was also very well received.
On the side we had some "grilled English asparagus with ginger miso sauce and crispy shallots" (£4), one of the less pricy dishes in the list (and therefore more appropriately a side order). There were a number of spears of asparagus, all fresh and nicely cooked, with a heap of toasted onions on top (very tasty), and the odd sauce, which gave it an Asian flavour, which actually quite nicely complemented the taste of asparagus.
To close, "the Tapa cheese plate of Montgomerys Cheddar, Tunworth and Picos de Europa cheeses with oatcakes, fig anise bread and stone fruit chutney" (£8) was truly lovely, with the oatcakes being particularly good (crumbly and crunchy at just the right texture) though the fig bread was excellent, and all the cheeses very well chosen (a cheddar, a blue cheese, and a brie).
In all an excellent meal for a not too expensive price, and it makes me more keen to try the more upmarket Providores room. Service is friendly and perfectly fine, though when busier they are rather rushed off their feet (it took them until after the mains had arrived to get us our bottle of wine, for example).
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