Category: Bistro (££)
I found myself on Maryelbone High Street on a work day during lunch time (I usually don’t do lunch breaks, so this was a happy occasion indeed) and happened to walk past Providores and the Tapa Room. What a great opportunity to finally eat at this well-established and celebrated split-level restaurant, the brainchild of the New Zealand -born chef Peter Gordon. Peter was one of the first chefs to bring fusion cuisine to London and is also co-owner and head chef of Kopapa in Covent Garden, runner-up for the Time Out New Restaurant Award in 2011. His Marylebone joint consists of two separated restaurants: On the first floor, there is The Providores, more formal and pricier, and downstairs is the casual and breakfast bar/cafe/restaurant The Tapa Room.
We lunched at the informal The Tapa Room. The Tapa Room serves tapas-style dishes, but don’t be fooled. It derives its name from the traditional Rarotongan Tapa cloth that hangs on the wall (you have to admire this sophisticated word play!). The Tapa Room doesn’t take reservations, and we were lucky enough to immediately get a table in the otherwise packed space. Patrons were drinking coffee and enjoying cakes, some were just having a glass of wine and other sampled the extensive tapas menu.
As to the menu… it is certainly an intriguing, or some may say annoying, read. What associations do dishes named Spiced dahl stuffed tempura inari pocket with caramelised coconut, pickled papaya and salted coconut milk or Master stocked leg of chicken with pickled carrots, pomello, green papaya, tamarind, puffed rice, coriander and nam jim salad provoke in your mind? Confusion? Curiosity? Irritation? For me it was a mixture of all of them with curiosity being the strongest, and I was very much looking forward to sample Peter Gordon’s food.
The grand names however didn’t live up to their promise. It wasn’t that I could fault the quality of the ingredients or the labour that went into developing the dishes, but essentially most the tapas we tried were just mediocre and certainly lacked any kind of wow-factor. You know the kind of food where you immediately reach for the salt shaker hoping it may revive what’s in front of you on the plate? Exactly that.
A rather bland affair was the Sweet potato, Cheddar, feta and sweetcorn tortilla with urfa chilli yoghurt, cherry tomatoes, salsa rossa and coriander salad (9.4) which in addition was not a very pretty looking dish either, with the tortilla being dirty gray in colour and mushy in consistency. Really good but so so tiny was the Pork, chilli, coconut and gapi salad on a shiso leaf with crispy shallots and tamarillo (4). Such a long name for such a minuscule dish, that’s almost a bit ridiculous if you ask me. Why not charge 5 or 6 pounds and give us two? In any case, here the different flavours really worked and gave me the taste fireworks that I would have expected also from the other dishes. Not sure though why it’s called ‘salad’?
Similarly disappointing was the Char-grilled lamb on Greek pita with chermoula, edamame salsa, tomato, rocket and tahini yoghurt (13). Some of the lamb pieces were tough and fatty; I may still have pieces of it stuck between my teeth today. Given all the amazing sounding ingredients, the dish miraculously managed to taste of nothing.
Nice and cooked to the point were the Buttered sugar snaps and samphire (4) and we really enjoyed those:
I didn’t feel like risking another disappointment for dessert after all of this, even though I was still hungry. To minimize risk, I procured a carrot cake from Le Pain Quotidien afterwards — and I don’t even like Le Pain Quotidien! What a shame to be let down by a restaurant that has been on my to-do list ever since I got seriously interested in food. Buhhh.
- Food: 5/10
- Service: 7/10
- Ambiance: 7/10
- Value for Money: 5/10
- Chances of Returning: 2%
- Verdict: More miss than hit fusion cuisine with so much promise and so little substance.