Five of us went to Providores on Marylebone High Street last night for dinner. The menu is an eclectic mix of nouvelle Asian, Latin, and Other - with emphasis on careful, artistic (some would say fussy) presentation - and exotic combinations and ingredients that encouraged debate - i.e. "bull's blood" - is it wine? is it black pudding? NO, it's a leaf.
Appetizers, all between £7-8 were the most interesting of the three courses: a couple of us had the Laksa, a savoury coconut and tamarind (I think) soup with see-through noodles, a single pork dumpling and a soft boiled quail's egg. Another had pork fillet with tamarind, sliced thin like prosciutto; and someone else had one of the salad starters. There was also a foie gras dish; an artichoke salad, as well as two or three more.
There were about six mains - around £16-18, one each of organic salmon; halibut; venison; Trelough duck; guinea fowl and one fully vegetarian option.
I had the duck in tamarind and molasses jus,over roasted parsnips; the duck was a healthy portion though the accompaniments were a bit stingy. People really liked the venison with mint "salsa" (I'm not a fan) so I'd say that was the winner of the evening.
Desserts were also quite exotic though high on style and lowish on substance - the nicest was a poached tamarillow with a 'small chocolate pie' (sic)and a dollop of cream. At about £7 these were also a bit steep.
The wine person among us was impressed with the selection but commented "With the prices they are charging for these wines, I'd like my food to be subsidised a bit more."
The dining room though small, is not cramped. It's up a flight of stairs and they've done the best they can with an awkward space. The service is extremely friendly but not slimily so. They do not rush you. The chefs, Peter Gordon (of sugar reef) and Anna Hansen, are very exacting and perfectionist.
The downstairs Bar & Tapa Room (as someone has mentioned elsewhere on this board I believe, it has nothing to do with Tapas - rather Tapa is a decorative Indonesian cloth or something) is lively, loud, cramped and crowded. It was still hopping at 11 on a Wednesday night though I believe they stop serving food at 22h30. Overheard, from someone who had seated themselves as close to the front door as possible without being outside - in an irritated voice: "I wish people would stop opening the door." Uh, OK.
Anyway, I think I'd try the Tapa Room, I'm told they have a great brunch - my favourite meal...but I won't be going back to Providores unless they change the menu: there wasn't anything else among the mains or puddings that I was remotely interested in (and that's really saying something). Count on £50+ a head, and don't go ravenous.