Most of our fifteenth birthday celebrations probably aren’t too deeply ingrained. I vaguely recall the joy of unwrapping that Casio keyboard I’d always wanted, only to later irk anyone in close proximity when I repeatedly played an automated version of Elton John’s ‘Crocodile Rock’ on loop.
One London restaurant’s fifteenth, however, is proving altogether more memorable – and thankfully its celebratory festivities come without a morsel of teenage angst or Elton John. Located on the ever-bustling Marylebone High Street, The Providores & Tapa Room is celebrating its many successes over the last decade and a half, through a series of immersive and entirely delicious events.
Initially launched in 2001 by acclaimed Kiwi chef Peter Gordon and restaurateur Michael McGrath, the eatery serves up a unique global fusion-inspired menu with an all-embracing New Zealand wine list to match.
I spoke to The Providores & Tapa Room’s current Senior Sous Chef, Paul Melville (below) about the restaurant, its unique anniversary celebrations, current culinary trends and his dying food wish.
http://www.bigleaguekickball.com/category/press/ cheap watson soma online Hi Paul, how are things?
I am very well thank you. Just completed the Dunwich Dynamo this week, which is a cycle from London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. I don’t know if you know the route… but it’s a little way!
http://www.bigleaguekickball.com/about/ buy Soma no prior script What did you have for your breakfast this morning?
Simple buckwheat pancakes with seeds and natural yogurt. They’re so easy to make and so delicious, just get some buckwheat flour, some eggs, milk, and a bit of water.
http://www.bigleaguekickball.com/category/press/ cod overnight soma What does your day look like?
I’m at home in London today dealing with all of the office work then heading back into the kitchen this afternoon for this evening’s service.
Tell us briefly about The Providores & Tapa Room?
It’s a fusion restaurant so we combine different dishes from around the world, different flavours, different textures – so our options are really limitless. The Tapa Room is more informal – it’s a causal, all-day place to eat with a great wine bar, while the Providores is a little more formal. The wine list is only from New Zealand – the northern hemisphere’s largest collection of New Zealand wine that a single restaurant serves up – so it’s something quite unique in that respect.
It’s the restaurant’s fifteenth anniversary, what are you doing to celebrate?
We are doing a variety of different culinary events. So far we’ve had Peter Gordon (Executive Chef at The Providores) and Vivek Singh from The Cinnamon Club cooking up a delicious dinner for some lucky customers. Most recently, for one fantastic night, we got together eight chefs that have worked at The Providores in its 15-year history to come and cook in one kitchen and create a whole lot of yummy food. The next event we’re doing is on Tuesday 18th October, when Peter and Vivek will be hosting another dinner. There will be tickets available soon, just have a look on our website nearer the date for more info. This one’s a must-see, or must-eat rather!
What is your favourite dish on the menu?
That’s a good question… we could be here all day! For me there are two, the Laksa, and when it was on the menu this spring, the smoked Dutch eel. The Laksa (pictured above, top right) is a broth made from smoked coconut, lobster shells, and heaps of aromatic ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, ginger, and garlic, served with green tea noodles, a soft-boiled quail’s egg, and topped with some spring onions and coriander. It goes down a treat! The smoked eel (pictured below) was served with a wild garlic leaf puree, salsify, samphire, charred spring onions, a macadamia nut gremolata, and a blood orange salsa.
Where do you source your ingredients?
A variety of markets and independent suppliers. When you and I are sleeping, there are guys sourcing the best ingredients for us to use… places like the New Covent Garden Market and Billingsgate, to name a few. We always try and buy local and free range when we can. The Providores & Tapa Room puts a big emphasis on provenance. For example, on the menu we often like to mention what farm the meat has come from.
You talk about provenance, is that an important aspect for you as a chef?
Provenance is definitely important. I really like to have that personal relationship with suppliers. The guy who we get our pumpkins from, for example, asked me to go down and help him plant 20,000 pumpkins in Oxfordshire – we managed to plant 8,000 whilst we were there. To see how he was growing his pumpkins organically was really phenomenal. Also it was great to visit our wild garlic leaf supplier up in North Wales earlier this year. It was amazing to see the leaves growing naturally along the side of the riverbanks, and tasting it first-hand. Understanding the story behind each ingredient you work with makes you appreciate the finished product so much more.
Can you remember that initial spark that got you into cooking?
When I was a young fella I cooked for one of my friends and made lasagna and and I remember just loving every bit of the process. As I got older I realised I enjoyed it and it was a way to express my creativeness. I really enjoyed travelling as well, so I figured out that I could combine everything into one. Further down the line, someone introduced me to the ‘farm to fork’ concept, which really got me thinking about where we source our ingredients. In this day and age it is something we all need to be aware of and get stuck into.
How did you come to work at The Providores & Tapa Room?
Well, Peter Gordon is very well known in New Zealand. When I was out there a while back, I was dining at one of his restaurants and happened to run into his mother as I was peering into the kitchen window. She kindly gave me his email address. I then, back in 2007, wrote a letter to Peter saying that one day I will come and work for you – and nine years later here I am!
What was it about Peter Gordon that attracted you to working for him?
Well there were two reasons why really. The first is that whenever I’ve cooked I’ve always unintentionally combined Asian flavours into my food, and obviously Peter does the same very well. Secondly, I like his cooking style. He is a very creative person, one of those chefs that cooks from the heart.
Being a New Zealander, what was the vibe about London that drew you here?
It’s a food mecca. It’s a melting pot for all different cultures and food scenes. You have your different communities all close together, each street with its own vibrant feel about it.
Where did you gain most of your cooking talent?
Certainly working at The Providores has furthered my abilities as a chef. Peter especially is someone who has really helped further me and bring my skills out, and I owe him countless amounts for helping me on my way. I think I have always been a creative and hard working person – a little bit of everything is needed.
Where do you like to eat out when you’re not working?
Apart from that Laksa on the menu, I’d have to say Rochelle Canteen just off the Shoreditch High Street. It’s really appreciated by chefs. I think when a chef goes out to eat it’s just what they want. Add to that the amazing E5 Bakehouse.
What food trends are you into at the moment, and what trends should we look out for in the future?
Currently I’m really loving pickling and fermenting. I think its something that has really taken off in the last year. For example, at The Providores & Tapa Room in the past, we have made cucumber kimchi and pickled rhubarb. At the moment we have some pickled fennel on the menu that goes on our cod dish. The pickled fennel really cuts through that rich tasting cod nicely. Pickling gives an ingredient that extra level of sweetness and acidity and can also add a nice colour on the plate.
In terms of future trends, I think there will be an increase in the use of kimchi. People are starting to realize the importance of eating things like kimchi and yogurts that have heaps of good bacteria in. People are also starting to see the benefits of using buckwheat more and more, understanding the first form of wheat, which is something called einkorn. The wheat we have now is so processed that people are resorting to going back to its basic form. A big emphasis on provenance is growing all the time – people enjoy seeing where their food comes from and how it is produced.
What do you get up to outside of the kitchen?
I like to travel a lot and I also cycle and snowboard where I can. In terms of the latter, not so much in London, as you can imagine!
If the world ended tomorrow, what would be your last supper?
A pot of wild garlic leaf pesto, a big sourdough loaf from E5 Bakehouse, and a big block of Berkswell Cheese.
To get tickets to Peter Gordon and Vivek Singh at The Providores on Tuesday 18th October, keep an eye out on their website www.theprovidores.co.uk. For some fusion-inspired cooking at home, the restaurant’s Executive Chef Peter Gordon’s new book ‘Savour: Salads for all Seasons’ is out now.
The Providores & Tapa Room, 109 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4RX.
[IMAGES: James Byrne Photo]