Provenance Kitchen Brix + Mortar, Whittlesford
Brunch lovers of Cambridge rejoice - there's a new restaurant and deli in the area that serves up inventive and tastebud-pleasing dishes in a stylish modern setting. Mine's a flat white please!
Provenance Kitchen is the sort of place that you can’t believe you haven’t been to before, once you’re in the know. I must have driven past 100 times and spent many hours wondering where I could get a guaranteed good brunch / lunch/ dinner in the area before I chanced upon this stylish independent restaurant, cafe and deli just off the A505 and A11 on the outskirts of Whittlesford.
Provenance was set up in 2015 by Kate Holden and chef Greg Proud, who were keen to escape the rat race of corporate city working. The “fast slow food” business started life operating out of an Airstream trailer and converted horse box, serving the locally-sourced wood-fired food they’re quickly becoming famous for at weddings and events across Cambs. In January 2019 they opened Brix + Mortar, a large, modern restaurant centred around a brick-built wood-fired hearth.
On both of my mid-week visits (and I assure you there will be many more) the café space was buzzing and vibrant, a surprise given its large size and the fact that it’s not within walking distance for punters. Testament to the fact that people will put in the miles for amazing food, atmosphere and service. There’s a huge car park to reflect this and plenty of staff on hand to make sure your slow food gets to you fast. The space here works for every type of occasion – a business meeting, a friendly place to work on your own for a couple of hours fuelled by endless cups of delicious coffee, a catch-up with friends, a birthday meal or a place to bring babies and children. The buggy brigade will love all the space (I made a mental note to organise my next NCT catch up here).
As you walk in there’s a deli, filled with the locally-sourced products that are used in the dishes, as well as gifts and cards. This opens out onto the café area, with a cosy fire and sitting area, as well as the larger restaurant space with views onto the magic happening in the kitchen.
Decor-wise, it’s pared back and modern, without feeling stark, the sort of place people might refer to as hygge these days! Dark walls contrast perfectly with floor to ceiling windows and there are indoor plants aplenty. It’s all very instgrammable. There’s a charming-looking courtyard outside – not for me on a grey autumnal day – and there are picnic benches out front too.
SCOFF & QUAFF
It’s been open for less than a year, but Brix + Mortar is already becoming THE place for Sunday Lunch. I’m here to put the brunch menu through its paces though… and I pretty sure it’ll soon be up there as one of the top places for brunch in Cambs, too. The menu is nicely varied, from your classics like homemade granola, greek yoghurt and seasonal compote and toasted sourdough with butter and jam to inventive dishes like Hereford flank steak, fried egg, Romano pepper and green chilli.
I opted for the Turkish eggs AND mushrooms, yoghurt, kale, parsley and garlic butter on sourdough (I didn’t have lunch that day, so no judging please!) with a flat white to wash it all down.
Get me to Turkey if their eggs are always that good! This delightful dish comprised two perfectly runny poached eggs with harissa, tomato, cumin, spinach and labneh on sourdough (from local bakery Grain Culture). They’d used the perfect amount of spice, making the tomato sauce warming and moreish, while every so often my fork would come across a creamy yoghurt layer that was so tasty I could have eaten it on its own.
I thought the Turkish eggs was going to be my favourite dish, but I hadn’t counted on the magic that chef Greg can do with mushrooms. Reading the ingredients didn’t massively inspire me – I’m no kale eater and reckon people who love it are deluded. But after hoovering up this dish, I have quite happily joined their self-righteous posse. The kale worked perfectly with the freshest lemon and herb sauce I’ve ever tasted, and the texture was divine, with a smattering of crunchy walnuts against the soft grilled mushrooms. I challenge even people who don’t like mushrooms not to like this dish.
My flat white coffee was beautifully presented on a wooden plank and was just the hit I needed to get me to pepped up after a filling brunch.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: We can personally vouch for it being a perfect place for brunch (and have it on good authority that lunch and dinner is delish, too) for pretty much every type of bruncher. There’s a well thought-out kids’ menu, mums with babies will find the huge space ideal and there’s enough tables that anyone without kids can be far enough away not to be disturbed.
Not for: Bottomless brunches. Because of its location, someone is always going to have to be the dreaded designated driver, or you’ll need a taxi.
The damage: Great value for money. All the brunch dishes, except the Hereford steak, come in at under £10. Excellent when you consider the size of the dishes and the fact that most ingredients are locally-sourced.
Provenance Kitchen, Hill Farm Road, Whittlesford, CB22 4AN