Tapa Room @ Providores, Marylebone, London
Perfect deep frying in the smoked eel and Parmesan croquette - golden brown and crispy on the outside, light fluffy potato on the side. Watercress for a sharp contrast to the richness of deep frying. The bits of smoked eel are scarce, and lend an occasional smoky flavour, and it wasn't easy to catch the Parmesan cheese. The saffron aioli was sunshine.
Duck breast is beautifully done, an elegant thin rim of luscious fat, tender and firm smoky rich meat. The duck was enhanced with sweet, fruity kumquat compote of some sort, excellent with mustard seeds and just a tiny bit of tanginess. Pickled walnuts didn't do much beyond a slow broad tone of sourness. A scatter of pomegranates seeds for more bright juicy acidity, and vegetal tasting (what I thought might be) pea shoots. The pan fried ewe milk cheese was relatively inert.
Aromatic and delicate woodsy flavours from sauteed mushrooms, with tarragon yogurt as a creamy tangy and herbal foil, and crispy polenta sticks nicely breaded with a reasonably soft texture within; the advertised rosemary was probably on the subtle side.
Pork meatballs have a nuanced cumin flavour, with cilantro for a light contrast, and a base of greek yogurt, dense and thick, a blanket over the pig.
Drank a (copied from their website): 2006 Pyramid Valley, Calvert Vineyard, Bannockburn, Central Otago NZ. Bright, big and curvaceous in the berry and fruit department, but with a pinot noir thinness texturally. Well balanced, if a bit on the tannic side (hey, it's only 3 years old) but mellowed nicely in the glass. A soft lick of acidity (but not much), and perhaps hints of spice, though it might be hard to tell after what I ate. For some reason I imagined ginger, perhaps reinforced by the heat of the alcohol in the finish. A slight woodsy side showed with the mushrooms, and the fruit held up elegantly to the kumquat and dress, a potentially complicated matching. Did well against the pork meatballs as well, the soft but fruity wine wrapping around the pork and cumin nicely. Considering the mileage I got from the wine in terms of pairing (I was careful to choose pinot noir friendly stuff, but still), and the complexity and structure of the wine, I didn't think it was a bad deal at £15 a glass, even if it was initially a touch gritty and took a while to settle down and brighten up to its final vibrancy.
Loved the rhubarb and vanilla cream, flavourful and rich, perked up with a tangy citrusy jelly layer of satusuma and cointreau. All perfectly delicious but understand, with components that worked well together. But the ginger donut on top had a flat cardboard like tasting texture, there's no doubt it wasn't fried fresh to order.
Complex dishes with many parts that come together well. Perhaps little nit picky issues here and there re: some of the dishes, but nothing major. Pleasant meal overall, decent value, maybe very very slight pricey for about £43 for the food. Neither exorbitant nor a bargain.
Just wanted to add another point of view, as I tried Providores for the first time recently - I don't know what took me so long, as I live near Modern Pantry and love their brunch. I had a fantastic
dish: grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft boiled organic egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline. The sweet potato, although more mash than hash, went perfectly with the chorizo, as did the labne, and the nuts added another sweet note. I had the miso porridge as well, which I've since made at home sans tamarillo compote (http://rudehealthbreakfast.blogspot.c...), and think it's both comforting and interesting - it encapsulates Providores's awesome ability to combine sweet/savoury in an addictive way.
Wanted to add that I went back for dinner on Tues (upstairs) and was quite disappointed. I loved the 4 or 5 brunches I've had there, especially their chorizo/sweet potato dish and French toast with bacon, even if the French toast wasn't creamy enough (British "french toasts" often just = sweet fried bread in my experience). But I found many of their dinner dishes bland. Mr Foodie94 & I had:
Kohlrabi and onion bhaji with plantain date salsa, sumac yoghurt, pomegranate mint sauce and lotus crisps, my favorite dish - quite punchy and satisfying
Pan-fried seabass on fennel, seafood and Israeli couscous paella with kale, piquillo pepper and thyme purée and yuzu beurre blanc - no citrus flavor, tiny amount of couscous, 1 tiny bit of fennel, underseasoned
Roast Gressingham duck breast, pickled plums, crispy star anise polenta, bok choy and tahini sauce - lovely duck and polenta, but tahini flavor wasn't there and there were only a few tiny bits of plum
Sri Lankan spiced beef short-rib with pearl barley, raisins, almonds, mango chutney and coconut - way too sweet, with overwhelming coconut flavor
Ginger loaf with Mackintosh Toffee sauce, chili, blood orange - intriguing, but too salty overall, and I didn't get any citrus
Rhubarb fool with tapioca and meringue - nice, if a bit dull
3 small courses are £47 are overpriced - I'd so much rather have Sunday lunch at the Ledbury for £50, which never disappoints and actually fills me up. I'll stick to brunch at the Tapa Room!
re: Gourmet Chick
Cool - do you have any particular favourites for breakfast there? (A friend of mine mentioned that the breakfast was good too, and he also mentioned to me that the chef there was one of the first among the European/Asian fusion movement to really appreciate and combine the cuisines in a fruitful way.)
Limster - as pj26 says Peter (a Kiwi) probably was one of the first to bring the "fusion" style to London. But to me he is simply representative of the style of cooking that has developed across Aus/NZ. Lots of other pioneers out there who helped create and refine the style.
I remember the early days of "The Sugar Club" in Notting Hill and thought is was OK, but only a pale reflection of what was happening in Aus in those days. I have yet to try the Providores though.
From what Gourmet Chick says "Lantarna" may be as good a bet for breakfast.
Hi Limster - go for the Turkish eggs, sweetcorn fritters or French toast. Avoid the miso porridge. Sounds good as a concept but a bit gluggy in execution.
Peter Gordon has a few cookbooks as well (all for sale in Providores!) which give further info on his fusion style cooking.