Having read positive reviews about Provender, an independent French café brasserie on Wanstead’s High Street, I chose it for catching up with a friend over lunch.
We met next door at The Cuckfield for a pre-lunch drink before our booked table at 1pm.
Although Provender has a small sunny pavement terrace, there was a chilly wind, and we were glad we were sat inside. The small restaurant had only 75 covers and our table, normally for four, had the extra chair removed and the place setting in the middle which was a nice touch and made it feel more inclusive.
I’d read about an excellent value menu of two courses for £15 or three for £19, but as the website described it is a ‘market menu’, I thought it might be very limited with dishes I didn’t like. So I’d already decided on alternatives from the a la carte: a starter of arancini (£5.50) and a main of Souffle au Reblochon (£15.50). You can imagine my delight when both dishes were on the small chalkboard with the set menu.
We nibbled on olives and wonderful French bread and butter whilst the others chose, also from the set menu. Both opted for Bayonne ham which came with melba toast and rémoulade, and pork rib eye, a delicious tender piece of pork with a light jus and French fries. My dishes were superb with the three arancini being placed on a little aioli and the twice baked souffle being served with confit onion, artichoke and crème fraiche which kept it light.
Whilst I’m not a pudding person, it was hard to resist a tart au citron, but I was pleased it wasn’t too big and came adorned with fresh raspberries and coulis.
When food menus are often good value, the sting in the tail is the price of the wine. But here the Carte des Vins had four whites under £25, although we opted for the house at an incredible £16.95. We should have had our apéritifs here as in the pub I’d paid £23.50 for a bottle of white. There were also several wines sold by the glass (including 125ml) and 500ml carafe.
The service from two guys, who could have been father and son, was excellent and unobtrusive. The wine bucket was placed near us, and if they were on hand, glasses were refilled, but if you poured yourself, they didn’t immediately rush towards you to take over.
The ambience was casually elegant with a buzzy vibe to the place, and so we had a simply fabulous experience, and cannot wait to return.