The Providores and Tapa Room opened in 2001 by fusion cuisine specialist chef and restauranteur Peter Gordon – a native Kiwi, former consultant of Kiwi owned Gourmet Burger Kitchen and a world traveller with a penchant for Asia which he is hugely influenced by. He is also known for The Sugar Club which opened in Notting Hill in 1995 and made it to the Soho circuit in 1998 and is now back in Auckland. And of course Kopapa in Covent Garden which is renowned for their all day opening, catering for theatre goers as well as breakfast and brunch enthusiasts. The restaurant is based on 2 floors and for not wanting to labour the obvious the upper deck is serving more formal plates whilst downstairs is a no-booking buzzy breakfast bar, serving barista style coffee. And in the evening it manifests into a tapas inspired wine bar full of well heeled folk chowing down on small plates. In case you’re in the dark the word ‘tapa’ originates from a decorative Rarotongan Tapa cloth to decorate side walls, or used as a ceremonial feasting mat.
A fellow diner and I are booked for upstairs in the Providores room – quiet upon our 7.30pm arrival but fills up quickly as the night progressed, whereas the Tapa Room is full from that time onwards as you can see above.
We opt for the 2 course £33 per head option:
The bread wasn’t too shabby albeit a little airline food-esque and the pinot noir (2 Pads Picnic £55 per a bottle) was a tad too acidic for my tastes – although I’m not professing to be a wine connoisseur, I’m just comfortable with what my palate prefers!
Black cardamom braised Shrewsbury ox cheek, farro and freekeh, shallots, violini squash, baby kale. The ox cheek spoon eating tender as you’d expect with subtle Asian coconut curry whisper throughout the dish including the wheaty farro and barley-like freekeh. The baby kale reminded me of Chinese watercress soup, refreshing and irony. The dish was served luke warm, but the issue was that it just wasn’t memorable and I was ready to pass it on for the next course.
Pan-fried Scottish scallops, celeriac, fennel, samphire. Not a bad plate of food and a I loved seeing the roe attached still which I believe should feature on all scallop dishes, it’s underrated! The scallops lacked sweetness though and we’re tiny. I’d rather have one big juicy sweet one then two uninspiring mouthfuls.
Beef pesto – The Sugar Club Classic. Marinated beef fillet, warm chard, courgette and beetroot salad, garlic dressing, pesto, kalamata olives. After reading the headline, I just had to try this dish. As a professional carnivore I have eaten some fine steaks from all walks of life but would generally shy away from fillet due having more flavourful choices on offer. This one wasn’t an exception and lacked that bold beefy flavour – the pesto and olives gave it that additional dimension it needed but overall it wasn’t something to shout home about.
New potatoes, shallots, capers. (£4.80). These little jewell’s from the ground, I’m afraid to say these little spuds well and truly nut-megged the main dishes, they were delicious, waxy, nutty seasoned so well from those pungent shallots and chards of salt, they were a winner. The additional salty capers were a nice supplement too.
The damage: Expect to pay £80 per head for 2 courses with wine/side dish(s).
The good: The concept of 2 floors, 2 dining experiences is interesting, especially with the buzzy Tapa room and hats off to Peter Gordon for translating his culinary experience of Asia into his Marylebone Kiwi institute, it’s a nice concept. The new potatoes were a winner, an excellent bowl of food conducive of smiles.
The bad: The Providores which is where I dined was a sombre experience with matching plates of food, it just lacked the wow factor at this price point which is much needed in such a competitive part of town.