Christmas at Provenance, Westhoughton
Before I begin this one, an apology is needed.
You see, the day after I attended this delicious dinner, my mobile phone, host to all the images, did a software update and, well.
And with it, all the pictures.
They hadn’t even had chance to properly connect to the WiFi and upload. And even worse, the pictures were excellent – even if I do say so myself.
I have, borrowed images from the lovely Rick – but these are not the images you are looking for. I am going to have to rely on my descriptive super powers (if I have any) to give you an idea of how good the food was. And why this is the only restaurant in Bolton in the Good Food Guide.
(But if you absolutely cannot cope without a plethora of images, pop over to Liz’s blog on the visit here).
So, let’s rewind to before the software update of death. It was a cold, grey and very, very wet evening, when my date picked me up from Bolton train station. I was in totally unsuitable shoes and my feet were soon sodden and cold as we dashed over to Provenance itself.
For the uninitiated, Provenance is spread across two floors. Downstairs is the deli – featuring fresh produce, meat skillfully hung and butchered on site, local comestibles and goodies that almost have you emptying your purse onto the counter when you arrive.
Upstairs, there’s the restaurant. That same produce is used in the dishes here and everything is made on site (except for the filo pastry I’m assured as ain’t nobody got time for that). The decor is simple and classy, to be honest, it doesn’t need feathers and furbellows, because it’s a space where the food speaks for itself.
For this evening, we were being treated to a combination of tasty goodies. Samplers of the festive menu, elements of the a la carte menu, and favourite dishes that Head Chef Lewis Gallagher has produced since the venue opened.
We began with tasty mouthfuls of Christmas. Spoons full of rich potted salmon, wild mushrooms on thick slices of sourdough toast, and tender sauteed chicken livers with slivers of bacon, in a crisp filo pastry – all featuring in the Provenance Christmas menu. One mouthful certainly wasn’t enough of that salmon, the mushrooms were simple, but so well done and we all commented on the delicious tenderness of the chicken and the contrast between it’s softness and crunch of the pastry.
Our second course was deceptive. A small ramekin filled with what appeared to be a mouthful of soup. It was in fact a cauliflower espuma – a thick, rich foam which sat atop a combination of crisp green apple, and rich caramelised apple puree. It sounds odd, it tastes incredible. The apple tones down the bitterness of the cauliflower, whilst keeping the richness, and earthy flavour.
The course that followed this, was perhaps the prettiest and one of the best of the evening – butternut squash puree sat plumply on the base. studded with cubes of the same, and spirals too, pieces of chorizo and then two fat perfectly cooked scallops.
It was sweet, creamy, gently spicy, and deliciously textured.
The next course, divided opinion. It’s one of the mains from the Christmas selection, the vegetarian option and features an onion tart tatin, with a rich buttery puree and burnt onion powder. The textures were fabulous, and as someone who lives for a roast onion with thyme and butter, I loved it.
Our fish course was another pretty plateful from the Christmas menu, a thick hake fillet, sitting on top of chorizo cassoulet with basil pesto. We were all torn on this one. Texturally, quality wise, it was again delicious, it was, however, missing a little heat. The chorizo simply wasn’t spicy enough to cut through the sweetness of the lentils and it ended up tasting overly sweet. But that hake… sigh.
Our penultimate course however had us all sighing with pleasure. The duo of lamb featured both a delightfully rare cutlet, and a crisp but sticky breast and a potato and celeriac dauphinoise. The latter is one of the best dishes at Provenance. I still fantasise about the potato dauphinoise from my last visit and this version is merely lighter and earthier but still perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned. I could just eat it with a spoon on it’s own.
Finally, if we had any room left (barely), there was pudding – Chef I Dropped the Manchester Tart. A twist on a famous recipe from chef Massimo Battura, this is Lewis’ own version. And whilst a heavy finisher, it’s a good one. Crisp pastry, rich creamy custard, sharp soft raspberry. I would have preferred more custard (but then most puddings are better with extra custard), but texturally and flavour wise, another one that couldn’t be faulted.
I’d always advocate any excuse to visit Provenance (I still need to take Mr GFB for a visit at our leisure, so we can then spend a small fortune on all the treats downstairs too), but if you need an excuse, then Christmas would be it – it’s a bit of a bargain. The Christmas menu featuring two courses for £16 or three courses for £19 is available between 30th November and 23rd December.