The Providores popped into my life in the nick of time; just as brunch had begun to get boring. London is a city awash with generic morning menus and this mecca for early eaters brings imagination in spades.
Opened eight years ago by Kiwi chef Peter Gordon previously of Sugar Club fame, The Providores is housed unobtrusively behind a wooden framed shop front on Marylebone High Street. Having been told to expect a queue we arrived early and sure enough a line of hungry punters had already formed; this in a city bereft of patience is evidence of the delights within.
Step over the threshold and a high communal table forms the centrepiece. Smaller tables line the walls and even the bright bay window has been cleverly turned into a breakfast bar, occupied today by lone diners and piles of Sunday papers. The space is compact, the diners many and the staff busy, yet the atmosphere is relaxed and unhurried.
Settling down at our table we take in the surroundings: statement white lamp shades draw your attention to the high ceilings in the centre of the room while oversized unadorned light bulbs dangle over our heads, their orange elements glowing brightly. The interior is clever, the lighting creating an illusion of space where there is none, features like nifty coat hooks hiding under tables keeping clutter minimal.
The menu is a revelation. Ingredients like sumac, yuzu, miso and tamarillo sit alongside bacon, bread and oats. Pancakes of sweetcorn and blueberry (£8.80), baked beans with smoky molasses (£2.80) and perhaps the most intriguing of all the combinations – poached Turkish eggs with yoghurt and chilli butter (£6.20). Read on further and the choice becomes impossible so intriguing are the dishes.
Tumblers of strong rich coffee arrive, the frothy topping bearing the baristas arty signature. A pot of fragrant earl grey is accompanied by a tea cup into which a small milk jug has been snugly slotted, another space saver or perhaps just stylish after thought.
Our eagerly anticipated choices arrive and we are impressed. A generous slab of French toast (£8.80), stuffed with bananas and pecans, topped with plenty of streaky bacon and surrounded by a pool of vanilla syrup disappears in seconds. This indulgent combination takes the best from European and American classics and creates a satisfying winner.
Opaque flakes of hot-smoked salmon, layered with spinach and perfectly poached eggs on walnut toasted bread, dripping with yuzu-hollandaise (£10.40) is mouth watering (yuzu being an oriental citrus). Labelling this a variation on the ubiquitous Eggs Benedict does it no justice, the dishes may have similar origins but I belie any classicist to try this without undergoing instant modernisation.
And finally: a bowl of porridge. Not just any old oats but “brown rice, apple, maple syrup and miso porridge made using soy milk and served with tamarillo compote.”(£6) A description so pretentious I couldn’t resist it. This porridge is so ridiculous it doesn’t contain a single flake of oat and despite not wanting to like it, the verdict was good. The brown rice lent an unusual texture but the finished dish was creamy not rich, sweet not sickly and made fresh by the apple puree, though nearer to rice pudding than the menu description suggests.
As our squeaky clean plates were whisked away it became clear that a return trip was a necessity. This first visit was just a sample of a menu brimming with intriguing and innovative combinations. It updates and questions the classics and is not afraid to be provocative in doing so.
The clearest illustration of this restaurant’s nature though lies beside the boiled eggs: the toasted soldiers come with vegemite. Any restaurant on British soil ballsy enough to usurp marmite with its cousin from the subcontinent has to be worth a visit.
The Providores & Tapa Room
109 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 4RX
020 7935 6175