Archive | August, 2011

The Providores and Tapa Room: The dark art of fusion

18 Aug

Fusion cooking is one of the most maligned of all culinary disciplines. Often rightly, for in the wrong hands it can be an affront to the crockery it’s placed on. The Providores and Tapa Room is one restaurant that practices such dark arts. Led by Peter Gordon the antipodean who caused Jay Rayner to say “there was nothing wrong with fusion cooking… as long as Peter Gordon was doing it”. It’s located on Marylebone High Street and is the perfect spot to do some people watching. The Providores, the restaurant proper is on the top floor, whereas the bottom is filled with the Tapa Room. It takes no bookings and so there was a small queue outside when we arrived on Saturday morning.
My previous experience of fusion at The Modern Pantry, led by Anna Hansen, Gordon’s disciple, had been excellent. I was slightly disappointed by Gordon’s other restaurant, Kopapa, finding the portions too small for the price. I hoped that this wouldn’t be the case here.

The room itself is what could kindly be called intimate, verging on cramped. It does have the advantage of helping to create that crucial ‘buzz’. There are two menus, a breakfast that runs till 2pm, and a full menu from 3pm. The menus both read like a potential car crash of cuisines, miso doing a dance with sweet potato next to lime mingling with basil in a waffle. The brunch menu is relatively restrained in comparison to the all day menu although still has some surprises. Amongst this madness the full English seemed out of place, although I soon changed my mind once I smelt the glistening bacon and the wafting earthiness of the mushrooms.

My Friend and I opted to share some dishes, being achingly trending/a bit greedy. Often I find this annoying, as when I chose something I want to eat all of it. I don’t want to share it. Sometimes it’s nice to have small sections of food as it helps to keep things fresh and exciting. More often than not it’s simply frustrating.

In this case it was a slightly unwise decision as we had too many plates to fit on the table. Having had my love of chorizo rekindled by Brinsida in Borough Market I opted for chorizo with miso, sweet potato and creme fraiche. I was intrigued by how the miso would work with the sweet potato. The first mouthful was enough to wave at my companion for silence, better to savour it. So quite well then. The smokiness of the chorizo and the umami from the miso lifted the sweet potato up to a mash of MADNESS.

The next dish was goat’s curd, broad beans, grilled artichokes and rocket. All the flavours mingled together in a symphony of spring. It was less exciting than the whoomph of the miso and chorizo yet for me it still worked as a dish.

My companion went for the lime and basil waffles with a sweetcorn and jalapeño relish. I was less enamoured with this. The waffles were fairly staid and the relish nothing special. A bit of a non starter if I am honest.

Having ransacked these dishes, I still couldn’t get the smell of that bacon out my head. I went for the bacon with banana and walnuts, feeling that I couldn’t stomach a full English. The bacon was nice, but overall the dish was almost cloyingly sweet due to the syrup over it. The bacon cut through it somewhat, but I would have preferred more bacon and less sweetness.

All in all, a meal of highs and lows. Yet none of the lows were disasters or car crashes. They just didn’t sing to the same standard as the others. With fusion, it seems almost a perverse achievement to manage to make a dish that is merely boring, but I guess that speaks to the skill of Gordon. The standard of cooking is obviously high and I have no doubt that the full English is the proverbial dogs. It’s enough to make you want to move west. Almost.

The Providores and Tapa Room
109 Marylebone High Street W1U 4RX 020 7935 6175
Closest Tube: Baker Street
The Damage?: easily £15 to £20 per person with drinks.
http://www.theprovidores.co.uk/