Reviews of Wanstead’s new Provender welcome


Wansteadium’s food blogger Suki Orange writes:

So my long-held desire for somewhere wonderful and useful and practical to eat in Wanstead, probably with the family, reaches another crunch moment tonight, Saturday. Our new restaurant on Wanstead High Street, Provender, is opening this evening. Let’s just hope it all lives up to its promise.

From the outside, Provender looks beautiful and funky and pretty cool actually. But of course I’m not quite as shallow as to judge by appearances. The menu does give us a few clues though. Here’s a picture of it (click on it to see a full PDF on the Provender website).

So what to make of it? At first glance, I’m just not sure that the aim of being a “bourgeois bistro” will entirely translate into something which means very much for the average consumer. But never mind – what about the food.

I’m afraid that the dishes all look a little too over-complicated, too grand. I mean check out that francais! I may be wrong, but the feeling it gives is of the kind of restaurant you might go to as a treat rather than the everyday atmosphere of a bistro. And the prices… well, we’ll see, but there doesn’t seem to be very much of le chic d’austerite about them. And that, mes amis, is surely le chose de la jour.

I do know, however, that since the departure of Kylie’s Kitchen a couple of years ago, there aren’t too many places in Wanstead that you take weekend visitors for breakfast or brunch. I know too that our much loved Larder seems to be operating pretty much at full capacity, especially at lunchtime. And I know that there is certainly a gap in the market for somewhere to go during the day, with free wifi, plenty of space, a welcoming atmosphere and plenty of filter coffee and tea.

Good luck to everyone involved, and I know I’m not the only one who is hoping Provender will succeed where Cooks and Seasons before it failed. And as is traditional here on Wansteadium, your reviews are extremely welcome.

29 thoughts on “Reviews of Wanstead’s new Provender welcome”

  1. What a great new place my wife and myself dinned here on Sunday with our children,and for the second day of opening we found the whole exsperance fresh new and fun we was greated with a very nice welcome by the matrade with no booking he seated us and a high chair and also a colouring book for our son if we wanted,he then sent over a delightful waitress who then took our orders for lunch,which was a delight all clean plates even our son,not only did the matrade constantly check was all to our satisfaction as did the manager amd also the chef a shear delight will be regular and highly recommend this fab fun place to eat,can only get better service charge it worth the service you recive!

  2. We managed to get a table for two on the opening night on Saturday, and it was excellent. Very smooth service, given it was newly opened, and the food was great. Nice atmosphere too, and a lot of effort has obviously gone into the look of the place, and the design of the menus etc. My only slight criticism would be that the staff were a tad overly attentive – but I guess they were keen to impress on opening night. Apart from that, we couldn’t fault it and will definitely be going back.

  3. Late lunch on Sunday, and very disappointing. Starters were ok, it went downhill at main course time. The haddock goujons were limp and could have done with a couple more minutes, though plentiful. Friend said his choucroute was very average in terms of flavour and quality. Another had the rump steak, which was actually 2 smallish “steaklets” – with bog standard straw fries, but it looked better than my Sunday special of roast sirloin, which was terrible. The waitress said “it comes medium”, when in fact it came like the sole on an old loafer. Brown and tough as leather. Tiny splash of gravy, the yorkshire was like eating polystyrene. 3 little roasties, one thin carrot, and a few greens. Not in the same league as the British Queen, which undoubtedly does the best Sunday lunch in Wanstead by a mile. Provender should check out the opposition.

    The serving staff were trying too hard, but understandable given how new it is, and that it was not remotely busy. Overall, very disappointing. Nice environment and pleasant staff is not going to make up for slightly overpriced, extremely mediocre food. I hate to say – I don’t think this will survive unless it’s offer improves. Real shame.

  4. It just staggers me that Provender havn’t learnt anything from their failed predecesors. The menu is unexciting and too pricey—the Cuckfield which is always busy seems to have it right–nice food at sensible prices. The main problem with so many of the local restaurants seems to be a lack of understanding as to how to market their business–well thought out advertising and more promotions to attract the local punters. This is even true of my favourite—the Belgique which for a while really seemed to struggle in promoting its evening suppers

  5. I ate here for dinner on Saturday with my wife and we had a very nice time. Both starters (smoked duck salad and mackeral pate) and main courses (lamb and chicken) were very nice and we would definately return. If I was being picky I would say that the portions were not massive (I needed a side with my lamb) and for a French restaurant the cheese was dissapointing (although my wife’s chocolate pot was lovely). The service was also a little off (the main courses arrived before the plates for the starter had been cleared away – although the gentleman running front of house noticed this and came over to apologise), but I assume that this is just initial teething troubles. The Waitress herself was very pleasant. I also thought the wine was very nice for the price, I have definately had worse for more money in posher restaurants.

    Overall a good addition to Wanstead, and I shall definately be returning.

  6. We’ve eaten three times at Provender and really enjoyed it every time: very fresh fish and meat, good wine, friendly welcoming service all in a good atmosphere. But I’m intrigued by some of the comments above:

    Why is the French embarrassing? It’s a French restaurant. If the menu was in Italian, now that would be embarrassing, but surely a French restaurant should have a French menu?

    And if Belgique is your favourite eaterie then ok, but let’s face it, Belgique is a café. Can you really compare the two? In terms of value, Provender’s set menu at £9.95 (2 courses) or £12.95 (3 courses) offers excellent value and excellent – restaurant quality – food. Apparently they’ve got 100 bookings for Mothers’ Day so maybe they have learnt something.

    Anyway, I thought those comments were unfair. I’d just say try it for yourself. And bon appétit!

  7. Very poor, the reincarnation has not improved things at all.
    Limited overpriced wine list and service average at best – may be ok for a quick lunch but definately not for a night out.
    When is Wanstead going to get a decent restaurant?

  8. A truly excellent dinner here on Saturday night. Starters great; mains very good, and a pretty exceptional sirloin; and desserts all tempting including great pleasure for the chocoholic among us. Top that with a pretty decent all-French wine list with equally decent prices and charming, highly efficient staff, what more can a local restaurant do?

    They’ve got a lovely balance between special treat and midweek ‘can’t be bothered to cook’.

    Slight criticism: lift the portion size just a bit on some of the mains. But apart from that, a very welcome addition to Wanstead eateries. Already looking forward to a sunny lunch on the terrace.

  9. PMC, I am suprised at your very positive comments as I experienced something somewhat different on the same night. I assume you had the last chips in the restautrant with your sirloin as by 9.00, they had run out and couldn’t make anymore (??). I’m all for supporting new local enterprises and I sincerely hope that the numerous issues our group encountered are down to teething problems.
    I might venture back next year if it is still around.

  10. April 26th
    Cant believe the negative attitude of the contributors from Wanstead who have already posted review although I appreciate things may have improved since February. I Had already written the following as a review for Square Meal and was about to read the 4 star Time Out review when I came upon this site. I have lived in this area for 67 years and have not always been a vegetarian. Although of course I haven’t eaten the meat and fish dishes from the menu, they look soooooooooooooo interesting. Furthermore, my carnivore friends have enjoyed everything they have and they are amongst the most experienced “eater outers” I know. Come on Wanstead stop being so boring!

    I met some friends for lunch at their invitation and thoroughly enjoyed the experience . I am a vegetarian and ate very well indeed with an interesting choice; for example, did you know that quail’s eggs taste like hen’s eggs used to many years ago? The creamy celariac soup was to die for. Meanwhile, I was so impressed with the menu in general; it was a joy to read although I don’t eat meat or fish.

    I haven’t seen a menu like this in this part of East London/Essex. We are blessed with some very good Italian restaurants but this French menu looks so exciting. There are classic French dishes together with some imaginative additions and the friends with whom I ate tell me that they have enjoyed the food they have had on previous visits. The wine list was reasonably priced and the second cheapest red wine, a merlot from the Languedoc, was delicious.

    Well worth a visit (looking for a reason to return asap). My only worry is that the very reasonable prices might increase if too many of you agree with me.

    PS they are hosting a group of young mothers and their children on Wednesdays who have been asked to leave the Cuckfield and are devising a special, reasonably priced menu for them. Just how community minded is that?

  11. We have eaten in Provender 3 times now, twice over lunch and once for dinner. Each visit was really enjoyable – the food was great, the service was friendly and the price was fine for the whole package.

    I agree, you cannot compare Provender to Belgique, and you cannot compare it to The Cuckfield either – they are both different offerings. The closest comparison is probably L’infinito (formerly Hadley House), and I must say that the Provender experience for us was much more enjoyable.

    I think we should embrace the fact that a former Michelin starred chef such as Max Renzland has decided on Wanstead for his new venture – yes it takes some time to settle in as to what locals want/expect but it looks like he is doing that with the approach to the mums group. I wish him and the team there well!

  12. I also think some of these previous reviews are a bit harsh/negative but then again it is people’s own experiences…Went for a lazy Saturday afternoon lunch and it was fantastic. Staff is VERY friendly and helpful (provided high chair and drinking cup for our little one without having to ask for it etc..) It is a simple, understated (but beautifull) decorated eatery and everything we ordered was great – the 2 course lunch menu for £9.95 is great value – and the Merlot was very tasty. We’re on our way back there soon.

  13. My husband and I had a delicious dinner at Provender a couple of weeks back. Really well executed traditional french food with a few modern twists. Very sensibly priced wine menu. And I just had a look at the website and they seem to have a brilliant kids menu now too, as well as the prix fixe which changes daily. A great asset to wanstead and I hope it does really well. Do give it a try.

  14. Wanstead has been crying out for a restaurant like Provender for so long (even more so since the closure of Applebys)! Many other establishments have come and gone, previously promising so much and yet delivering so little! Finally an establishment that has a great concept with the ability to execute a great meal and experience. I have had four meals to date and have always found the staff to be welcoming, friendly and informative (therefore no complaints from me when it comes to the service charge). The food is traditional French with a modern twist and on each visit it has been fresh and of a good quality. It’s presence and decor has brought a bit of life to this end of the high street, which is well and truly needed!

  15. I would quibble with Mary’s point above as a vegetarian – there’s only one veggie option (the ubiquitous risotto) and they serve foie gras! So we shall not be visiting but I doubt we’re the target audience.

  16. I ate at Provender for the first time on Sunday afternoon and was impressed. Wanstead has a number of overpriced 70s-cuisine restaurants which are little better than the cheaper/better pub fare on offer. It’s refreshing to have an authentic French menu. My wife and I shared an assiette de charcuterie as a starter which was of high quality.. I followed up with Poulet fermier Aux morilles which was excellent – a small complaint being that the gratin dauphinois was slightly too mushy (and possibly too large a portion) and detracted slightly from the authentic and very tasty chicken. My wife was impressed by her Shetland salmon, spiced aubergine, cous cous & ras el hanout, aïoli – we are both aficionados of north African cuisine. We had a bottle of Chardonnay (£17.50) which was smooth, fragrant and very drinkable. We finished by sharing a dessert of Vacherin which was also excellent and very French! The meal was finished off with an espresso coffee for me (bang on) and a cappuccino for my wife (she felt the coffee could have been slightly stronger).
    Provender deserves to succeed. It is providing cuisine not previously available in Wanstead (Applebies, in its prime, being an exception). .I hope that they continue to provide an authentic French culinary experience and do not succumb to the temptation to dumb down.

  17. On the plus side, I thought Provender staff were lovely and the bar makes it more relaxed than the previous set-up with the kitchen staff on display. On the negative side, I found it over-priced and the portions really small (and I’m not a big girl!)

  18. I went to Provender a couple if weeks ago with some friends having heard good things. Worst night in a restaurant I’ve had for years. The service was painfully slow. When I asked the manager whether their foie grad was ethically farmed he just shrugged and said no. I can’t see any excuse these days for still serving something that is made by harming an animal when there are alternatives available. Anyway. My friends ordered from the set menu, I ordered from the main one. A spring Lamb stew with vegetables.
    When it arrived the meat was grey and looked dry. It tasted awful, as if it had been sat in the pass for half an hour drying up. The vegetables were overlooked and the sauce was thin and insipid. I had also ordered some “pommes frites”, which was disgusting… Clearly frozen oven chips. I don’t know how you can go wrong with chips but they were so bad that my friend and I actually spat them out! By the time I had got someone’s attention my friends had pretty much finished eating. The manager couldn’t have cared less that the meal was so poor, he just shrugged.
    How this place could have a mention in the Michelin guide is beyond me. Terrible food and service, I look forward to it closing down like its predecessors.

  19. I ate at Provender in August with two friends who were staying with me for the Olympics. They live in Bath and France, and I was anxious to take them to a local restaurant that did not simply serve up Brake Brothers type food. We were delighted with Provender. The waiter was great (despite a broken arm) and knowledgeable about the menu. I’m afraid I can’t remember what we ate, but we each enjoyed our meal. The portions are not big so not suitable if you are keen on quantity rather than quality. The food was well cooked, well presented and delicious. The ambience in the restaurant was very pleasing, and we had a very enjoyable evening. I would definitely recommend Provender. Congratulations all round.

  20. I & my partner visited the restaurant on 8.11. and left very impressed with the food & choice of wine although the wine list was a little limited.My only criticism would be the 12 1/2% service charge I prefer to be the judge of what tip I leave after I have decided how good the food & service was & not have the restaurant tell me.I know I have the right to refuse to pay the 12 1/2% but this might cloud my relationship with the restaurant & spoil a otherwise pleasant evening/lunch meal.

  21. Isn’t it time Suki Orange actually had a meal in Provender? Her rather negative introduction to these postings is nearly a year old, and is based on a menu that she hasn’t sampled. Come on Suki, get updated and let’s have some practical input here.

  22. If your reviewer can’t make it to Provender to try the only Michelin bib gourmand for miles…they should be shot. I have been a couple of times initially somewhat put off by harsh reviews and expectation of overpriced average food. I need not have worried! The food is excellent, and very good value. The chef keeps things relatively simple but imaginative with a sure hand and the use of the freshest and good quality ingredients. The service is attentive and jovial and the atmosphere light. This restaurant is not just for locals but is worth travelling to…if only for the smoked prawns (heavenly) and the daily fish specials.

  23. If your reviewer can’t make it to Provender to try the only Michelin bib gourmand for miles and at least a year after opening…they should be shot. I have been a couple of times initially somewhat put off by harsh reviews and expectation of overpriced average food. I need not have worried! The food is excellent, and very good value especially the £10.75 prix fixe for 2 courses. The chef keeps things relatively simple but imaginative with a sure hand and the use of the freshest and good quality ingredients. The service is attentive and jovial and the atmosphere light. This restaurant is not just for locals but is worth travelling to…if only for the smoked prawns (heavenly) and the daily fish specials.

  24. My experience is that Provender is a decent bistro-style place offering decent food at a fair price.

    And, oh dear: if a reviewer is going to carp about “checking out that français” (or “francais” as she would have it) and then posture in pseudo-French herself, she really ought to be able to know her “la chose du jour” from her “le chose de la jour” and her austérité from her austerite…

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