We kicked off this weekend with a lunch at Provender cafe & brasserie in leafy Wanstead E11, although confusingly I had actually booked a brunch table at Providores in Marylebone. Arriving at 12.15pm we found the place quiet after the breakfast service, which was fortunate after my table booking mix-up.
Provender is authentically French – the food, the staff, the service, the smart modern brasserie decor of exposed brick walls and charcoal wool upholstery with chunky cushions. So if you fancy a French bistro fix then this place is the real deal – cheaper and quicker than getting a Eurostar train to Paris. We went for the frequently changing Prix Fixe Menu (2 course £11.75 or 3 course £15.25 plus £3 supplement for steak) available Monday to Saturday.
The Rilette d’Oie et Porc – potted goose, duck & pork with celeriac remoulade, cornichon pickles and toasts; the pate was mild and the accompanying remoulade was light and fresh. The generous portion of Buisson de Crevettes Fumees – ten Maldon smoked shell on prawns with a lemon aïoli was a highlight. Served cold the prawns were strong and smoky. Other options were a truffle oil celeriac soup or grilled goats cheese and beetroot salad which provoked a bit of plate envy of a neighbouring table.
We were both in the mood for steak, but alternatives were fish and chips, confit chicken or Gorgonzola risotto. ‘Steak Frites, Bearnaise’ – grilled Flat Iron steak also known as a top blade steak is a popular new cut. Cooked rare as requested, it was rich and bold but the presentation could have been improved if it had been sliced on the plate. The frites were addictive dipped into the rich bearnaise sauce.
Finally after too much rich food we decided to share a Mousse au Chocolat – bitter chocolate mousse and a warm home made madelaine. The mousse was light and fluffy, sprinkled with cocoa nibs and went down quickly accompanied by a strong black coffee. Also available were a delicious-looking Creme Caramel with confit orange prunes, a Berry Eton Mess or a generous cheeseboard of farmhouse St Nectaire ‘cheese of the day’ with quince jelly and crackers.
Recommend this place if you want a taste of Gallic cooking at a modest price. The set menu is a bargain but expect to pay more for the a la carte. Efficient service, smart but informal surroundings, a wide choice of soft drinks and a long wine list by the glass, carafe or bottle are a real draw, plus the W12 bus goes right past the door.
Provender, 17 High Street, Wanstead, London, E11 2AA