The Providores

Tel: +44 (0)20 7935 6175
Address: 109 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4RX
Cuisine Type: Spanish

The Providores appears, on the face of it, to be a place full of contradictions and wilful contrasts. The ground floor, comprising a bar and non-bookable seating area serving international tapas, has the edgy buzz of a groovy watering hole for the bootiful people, throbbing muzak just a little too loud to allow conversation that does not necessitate leaning in over the cramped tables, whilst the upstairs dining room is an altogether more formal affair; three course dining, starched linen and politely hovering waiters.

We decided the Tapa Room had more atmosphere and better opportunities for people-watching. The room is modern and minimalist, dominated by the bar and a wall of (mainly new world) wine bottles along one end and a huge wall hanging, a ceremonial cloth from Tonga, opposite. And yet, like the fusion food on the menu, these contrasts combine to give a coherent whole. Which is no less than you would expect from Peter Gordon, one of the co-founders, who used to cook at the Sugar Club, a restaurant rare amongst its genre in that it managed to perfect fusion cooking to a fine art.

Whilst waiting for the more substantial tapas dishes, fill up with bread (olive focaccia, white and seeded, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), olives, roasted nuts, edamame or chestnuts. Then start with a selection of smaller bites – deep fried egg, Thai style with fish sauce, lime, coriander and chilli (£2.90) was fiery and pungent, though the egg was a little overcooked to the rubbery stage. However, chorizo spring rolls with a sweet apple (?) puree (£4.40) were addictive.

The salads we ordered featured original combinations, the flavours bold enough to hold their own, making a refreshing change from the limp pile of rocket, radicchio and curly endive that normally sit on the side of the plate more as garnish than as a satisfying accompaniment to the main courses. Herby lentils with caramelised red onion, cos and crème fraiche (£6.20) was simple, allowing the Puy lentils to shine as the main ingredient – they are too often relegated to the – “…on a bed of Puy lentils” line on the menu. Beetroot, feta, endive and swiss chard salad, with soy-roasted pumpkin seeds and tahini dressing (£6.90) was pleasant, but didn’t quite live up to expectations. More substantial salads include tea-smoked salmon salad.

The larger main courses don’t quite fit into the tapas concept here – substantial dishes that aren’t really designed for sharing. Chicken breast with white beans (£9.60) looked appetising, sitting atop a fragrant broth, and was pronounced “yummy” by its recipient. Crispy pork belly with red cabbage and fruit compote (£9.80) arrived as a generous slab of meat, but disappointed as the texture of the meat was tough and the skin was more chewy than crispy.

However, we rounded off with a couple of nice puds. Hokey Pokey ice cream (£4.80) was basically a posh McFlurry – vanilla ice cream studded with nuggets of honeycomb – and Aners chocolate truffle with espresso sauce (£5.80) was a dinky but densely rich parfait, offset by the bitterness of the coffee. Other options included poached tamarillo with five spice ice cream and chocolate and rum brownie with crème fraiche.

But as befits a place with such achingly trendy barmen as this, cocktails are the thing to have. Bellinis (peach and passionfruit), martinis (chocolate and espresso), mint julep, dacquiris and more – watch out, as the drinks bill can mount up faster than that for the food.