The Providores & Tapa Room has rested comfortably in the heart of Marylebone for 13 years. Founded by Peter Gordon, the renowned chef who has been creating cutting-edge restaurants, dishes and cuisine revolutions throughout New Zealand and the UK since 1986, it’s a perfect example of a restaurant that feels settled, and comfortable in its own skin.
Gordon is one of the original pioneers behind ‘Fusion’ cuisine; the idea that ingredients from diverse locations may be married together to form a holy, hunger-satisfying union. It’s an approach occasionally maligned for bastardising ‘authentic’ dishes with unnecessary additions. If you’re on the West Coast of the States, sushi often comes with cream cheese smeared inside, a thoroughly American modification. Fusion has both fans and haters, but after over a decade of service, Providores has made a name for itself on succeeding time and time again.
We show up on a Tuesday, and the Tapa room downstairs is packed. I’m led upstairs to the first floor dining room – a cosy, warmly lit room with soft music and the delicate chink of glassware providing a hazy backdrop. Providores boasts the largest selection of New Zealand wines within Europe, and the staff demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of it. Our waitress garnishes the first glass of wine with an anecdotal story about its heritage, and the final glass with gushing excitement and a flurry of descriptive adjectives that would make F. Scott Fitzgerald proud.
We’re treated to a selection of small-plate starters to begin. Beautifully spherical, crumbed chorizo croquettes mingle the right-hook flavour of chorizo with an uppercut of goat’s cheese pesto. The highlight, however, is a salad. Redolent with shredded Norfolk black chicken, purple potatoes, fennel, radish and dressed with smoked paprika and kalamansi (also known as the Phillipine lime), the killer ingredient is crispy buckwheat; adding a phenomenal crunch that sees the dish devoured in a matter of moments. It feels rare to be blown away by a salad, but the range of textures, flavours and the bright colours scattered throughout give this dish true star quality.
My main course is twice-cooked sweet and sour pork belly with butternut-squash filled dosa. Most of us have a particular meal that we can’t help but order if we see it on a menu, and for me it’s pork belly. The problem I find is that there’s often too strong a divide between the crisp, salted crackling, and the tender, succulent meat beneath. To avoid this, Providores seem to have turned to old cartoons for inspiration – the two ‘components’ of the pork belly resemble nothing as much as the whirl of action that happens when Tom finally catches Jerry; the barrier between fat and meat impossible to precisely locate. I enjoy the dosa, but it’s simply not in the same league as the pork. A range of sides accompanies the main, the winner being a combination of black figs with Turkish yoghurt, sumac, walnuts and honey. This isn’t something I would expect with a main course, but the tartness of the sumac with the softness of the fig provides a wonderful counterpart with the sharp snap of the pork.
The best meals always seem to be those that leave you in a perpetual haze of food, never quite wanting to go home, always curious as to if the last bite of a meal will surprise you. I have no firm recollection of leaving Providores, but considering we finished with frozen hazelnut nougat scattered haphazardly over café latte ice cream, I can be reasonably certain I’ll remember coming back.
The Providores and Tapa Room
109 Marylebone High Street
Tel: 020 7935 6175