Don’t get me wrong, I’m always up for a little jaunt out of the city, but at first sight I was slightly sceptical about a trip to Westhoughton, a small town nestled halfway between Wigan and Bolton. However, I was told this place Provenance was something a little bit special. And, with their well stocked ground floor food hall encompassing an on site butchers, greengrocers, bakery and delicatessen they’ve certainly been making a name for themselves in the surrounding area. The good news is there’s a restaurant upstairs too, serving dishes put together using all those fantastic ingredients, so we couldn’t turn down the offer to see what they were cooking up.
Without wanting to use the pretty played out phrase – classics with a twist – that’s probably the best way to describe the menu. There can be a tendency to want to twist a bit too far with these things sometimes though, and I thought that might be the case with the Curried Scallops, which sounded like they risked being overpowered – but the dish was excellently judged. A light lemon creme fraiche, sharp pickled cucumber and salty, crisp onion bhaji bits brought the best out of the flash-fried shellfish. There can’t be many things more commonplace than a scallop starter but these were an interesting new take.
The same could be set of the Duck Ham Benedict, which was essentially the classic American brunch dish with ham swapped out for cured duck. Our waiter was quite nonchalant about the ingredient but I’d never tried it before and it left me wanting to take a batch home, which incidentally you could of course, if you popped in to the food hall during the day.
If our starters were more playful riffs on dishes seen before, these mains were both a belted out chorus. The Sticky Beef Bourguignon, with its chunky chopped steak and veg wrapped up in rich dark caramelised sauce came well recommended. It tasted more treacly than of red wine, not sweet mind, but intensely flavoursome. I also loved the Crispy Duck Breast with cavalo nero, gnocchi and a well judged cream sauce. You’d expect nothing less from a place with its own on site butcher, but the meat in our mains was certainly shown its due respect. My duck in particular was cooked quite perfectly pink.
I had to be quick to get a snap of the White Chocolate Sphere before it was no more, melted under the warmth of a steaming passion fruit sauce poured on by our waiter. By the looks of the photo my companion for the evening was scrambling to catch the performance on film too. You can watch my video here if you’re in to that #dessertporn sort of thing.
It’s rhubarb season right about now – unfortunately I missed the Rhubarb Festival in my home town of Wakefield the other day, you should check it out if you get the chance. A visit to the rhubarb sheds isn’t forgotten in a hurry. To make up for that in some way I opted for the Rhubarb and Custard, a delicious vanilla creme brûlée topped with ice and cream and rhubarb textures. Both puddings were nicely light after some pretty generous portions.
After the meal we had a bit of a chat with head chef Lewis Gallagher, who has managed to create this menu which adeptly balances itself between solid pub grub and something more exceptional. It was nice to see his appreciation of the team behind him, as well as no shortage of excitement for the depth of excellent produce at his disposal. It’s an enviable position that he’s found himself in, and one that is being fully exploited by some brilliant dishes.
Provenance Food Hall & Restaurant
46-48 Market Street,
01942 812 398