We pay a visit to Provenance Kitchen’s cafe, deli and restaurant – and sample the famed Sunday roast dinner
Words and images by Nicola Foley
It was just over four years ago that Provenance Kitchen first surfaced in Cambridge, armed with a vintage Airstream van, oodles of enthusiasm and a dream of bringing “fast slow food” to the city. Bridging the gap between restaurant dining and street food, the menu championed seasonal, local produce, cooked to perfection over charcoal and fire.
Fast forward to January of this year and Provenance has followed in the footsteps of other stars of the Cambridge food-truck scene like Steak & Honour and Jack’s Gelato, opening the doors to its own permanent residence. Named, appropriately enough, Brix and Mortar, this Whittlesford cafe, deli and restaurant has enabled founders Kate Holden and Greg Proud to take their flourishing business to the next level, bringing their distinctive food to a much wider audience.
Located in an old farm building on a sleepy country road, Brix and Mortar surprises you from the second you turn into the ample car park. First of all, it’s huge – 120 covers huge, in fact: a bright, contemporary space that houses not just seating for diners, but a smart little deli, a well-stocked cake counter, walled garden, courtyard and orchards out the back. Its spaciousness makes it a great venue option for a larger gathering, and co-founder Kate tells me they’re doing a brisk trade in parties and corporate events (its handy location, minutes from the M11, doesn’t hurt either).
“Interesting, creative and modern British food cooked over charcoal and wood; elevating our dishes to the next level,” is how Kate sums up the menu, adding: “We like to keep things simple”.
As well as simplicity, a commitment to seasonality shines through on the menu, as does the passion for local produce – in fact, the restaurant boasts that many of the ingredients used are sourced from within a five-mile radius of the premises. You can expect beautiful cuts of local meat, homegrown herbs and exquisite veg sourced from Flourish in Hildersham, produce supplier to many a Michelin-starred eatery.
Provenance is also big on seafood, be it whole-cooked octopus, roasted turbot, plump sardines or mackerel; skewered and grilled over charcoal and served with juicy cherry tomatoes. Fans of the fruits of the sea are in for a real treat.
They seem to be on to a winner with the concept: the restaurant was full of life on the afternoon we stopped by for lunch, buzzing with families, couples and groups of friends settling down to lazy Sunday feasts. We kicked ours off with a creamy burrata drizzled in chilli and mint dressing, served with courgette strips and a good wodge of chewy sourdough, as well as some truly magnificent pig head croquettes. Perfectly cooked, with a crunchy exterior and plenty of rich, smoky pork inside, these tasty deep-fried cylinders came paired with burnt pickles and dollop of fiery mustard mayo, delivering big flavours in a beautifully presented package.
Intersting, creative and modern British food cooked over charcoal and wood
Starters speedily consumed, it was time to sample one of the much-recommended roast dinners that have had local foodies beating a path to Brix and Mortar’s door. You’ll have to book in advance to secure a spot for your Sunday lunch here, but it’s 100% worth a bit of forward planning. Succulent slices of Hereford beef sirloin (you can also try Suffolk lamb or Somersham pork), finished on the hearth for a distinctive fire-seared flavour, are served with jumbo Yorkshire puds, homemade horseradish and your own jug of rich gravy.
Add in a generous helping of crunchy, golden roast potatoes, charred leeks and sticky roast carrots and beetroot, and you’ve got yourself one of the best roast dinners in Cambridgeshire.
The beautiful homemade desserts (we tried a zingy lemon tart and a ‘chocolate nemesis’ with dreamy salted caramel ice cream), rounded off a fantastic meal
An obvious passion for provenance and produce, combined with a menu full of crowd-pleasing dishes and a stylish, versatile space, make Brix and Mortar a fantastic addition to the area’s food scene. Whittlesford, you’re a lucky village indeed to have a gem like this on your doorstep, but there’s more than enough here to lure in diners from significantly farther afield.
What: A cafe, deli and restaurant that serves modern, creative British food using seasonal and local produce
Where: Hill Farm Road, Whittlesford
How Much? Starters from £7, Sunday lunch from £12