tapa room (the providores)
I probably hurry past The Providores and Tapa Room on Marylebone High St at least once a week while picking up groceries or running errands, yet until today had never eaten there. The casual Tapa Room always looks so inviting and the adventurous menu intrigues me, however their no reservations policy has put me off thus far. Last week my plans to dine there after Peter Gordon‘s (the restaurant in question’s chef and co-owner) book signing (for his latest cookbook) were dashed when the plentiful drink and canapés served at the event left us full and without need for supper.
Today I was once again in the vicinity and peeked in to see that the restaurant was half empty (it was coming to 3pm), so strolled right in for a late lunch. I took a seat at the low wooden table that looked out onto the pavement and perused the menu, full of Gordon’s exciting take on fusion cuisine. Narrowing the selection down to just three choices was no easy task but I somehow managed it and placed my order. I took a sip of my glass of house white (a cheery NZ sauv blanc) and absently looked around as I waited for the small plates to arrive. The vibe at Tapa Room is really laid back (if you want a more polished experience, head to the upstairs Providores) with chilled Antipodean staff and a cluttered mixture of high and low tables.
The food came all at once – vibrant bursts of green, red and yellow. The Deep-Fried Organic Egg rolled in Garam Masala with Chilli, Coriander, Mint and Crispy Shallots (opening picture) boasted bold flavours and showed promise – the egg wonderfully spiced and the fried shallots adding a nice savoury note. Unfortunately the predominant flavour was that of lip-curlingly sour limes.
The Prawn, Ginger and Lemongrass Sugarcane ‘Skewer’ with Nam Phrik Mum Dressing was a much more balanced offering and I really liked the union of the soft sweet minced prawn with mild green chilli sauce. Similar to the popular Vietnamese Sugarcane Prawn, this variation literally falls off the sugar cane as you eat it – messy, but satisfyingly so! The sugarcane juice released when gnawed on rounded the experience off nicely. My only quibble? The price tag of £7.20 was kinda steep for just one skewer.
The Bone Marrow with Anchovy and Parmesan sauce on Sourdough Toast with a Beetroot Horseradish Relish was far more reasonable (at half the price) and very tasty, with the relish giving a pleasing mild kick. Having said that the bone marrow got a bit lost in the gloopy sauce and I’d much prefer St. John‘s pared down version any day.
Three dishes was probably enough, but the Samosa of Aromatic Slow Braised Beef Cheek and Curry Love with Banana Raita kept calling to me from the menu, so I caved and added it to my order, along with another glass of wine. I was glad I did – it was delicious. Thin crisp pastry enveloping meaty tender chunks of cheek and soft potatoes, pairing perfectly with a refreshing carrot slaw and raita. I was wary of the banana raita as it seemed an odd combination but it worked, and was actually rather good.
Content after the samosa, I ended the meal with a decent flat white and a smile on my face. Not a cheap lunch by any means, but I’ll most certainly be back (mates in tow) for an early weekday dinner (to avoid the queues) or a lazy Sunday brunch.
The Providores and Tapa Room
109 Marylebone High Street
London, W1U 4RX
t. 020 7935 6175