It was one of those unplanned meals when I didn't have my camera along. As you can tell, relying on my 3G iPhone was a bad idea.
It seems that everyone is into tapas these days; the Spanish dish has become the defacto name for all 'small plates' dishes in restaurants. And that's the case for Providores and Tapa Room, a creation by Peter Gordan, a New Zealanders by origin, at Marylebone High Street as well.
With London enjoying some good weather of late, we decided to have a late afternoon snack outside one of two tables at Providores. I was mildly amused that the waitress refused to let us have a peek of the menu stating as a matter of factly that food is served only after 4pm. Fine, I had to wait for five more minutes for the menu then while enjoying our mochaccino and cappuccino.
At £2.80 each, Providores' coffee is really good, flavorful without the acidity. I can see myself returning for some coffee whenever I'm in the Marylebone area.
When we eventually got hold of the menu, a few items caught our attention almost immediately even though the words on the menu could be spaced out more. Glazed baked duck char siu bun (£6.50) came with a 'chilli jam', which turned out to be sambal. The spicy chilli paste made using pounded up dried shrimps (or hei-bi) is wildly popular in Southeast Asia and even over there a good one is hard to come by. Providores does it wonderfully well with a mild initial taste with a strong dried shrimp aftertaste. After encountering Peter Gordan’s pork belly dish at Singapore Takeout earlier, I’m not surprise about the quality of sambal (‘chilli jam’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it) churning out from Providores’ kitchen. It is, in some way, better than the one at Modern Pantry.
The bun was filled with shredded duck seasoned with char siu sauce, which is a combination of five-spice, honey, hoisin, soy and honey. The bun itself is a thin dough baked to almost crisp. I thought the generous filling was a bit overwhelming. The sambal, which usually goes with fish dishes, didn’t really complement duck. Likewise sambal and char siu sauce just don't mix. A pity really.
I’ve got this unhealthy obsession for fried squid after having a really good one at Morito and will always order it if it’s found on the menu. I felt a bit cheated by Providores’ deep fried Cornish squid (£6.30); it reminds of something that could very well be coming out from a lesser restaurant. Not only the squid was tough, there was no texture to speak of and the batter was overly salty. The alioli didn’t do the dish much justice too. On a side note, I encountered a much better fried squid at The Royal Oak along Columbia Road (more on that later) the very next day.
I was a bit hesitant when Wife pointed to the deep fried banana fritter (£7.60) on the menu. The deep fried banana (or goreng pisang) is a favourite Malay snack back home. After having a golden syrup doused deep fried banana at, well, The Banana Tree, I have developed a phobia of ordering it in this part of the world. Providores’ deep fried banana fritter came stuffed with azuki bean and rice with a mandarin sorbet on the side. It does sound enticing, doesn’t it? If only it tastes as good as it sounds. It turned out that we didn’t really get the flavour of the filling as we were trying too hard to grind the tough banana fritter down to bits. On hindsight, we should have just cut through the banana fritter and just go for the filling. But that’s not how the dessert is supposed to be consumed, is it?
Earlier, Wife was told by a New Zealander that he loves Providores’ breakfast. After our almost weekly breakfast at Caravan, I have no doubt that Providores does a mean one as well. However, its tapas dishes (or at least those that we had) did let us down a fair bit.
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