William Skidelsky says breakfast needn't be dull

Breakfast can be a depressingly predictable meal, but not at the Providores

Three and a half years ago, in Prospect magazine, I debated the state of British cooking with the New Zealand-born chef Peter Gordon. The title of our debate was: "Did British cooking really get better?" He said it had; I said it hadn't. The issue is no easier to call today than it was then. Ours is a schizophrenic food culture. On the one hand, the Fat Duck is voted the world's best restaurant; on the other, there are parts of this country where it is all but impossible to obtain a decent meal. Questions of obesity, nutrition and health are discussed at length in the media; yet children grow up thinking that there's nothing more delicious than a Turkey Twizzler.

Whatever our past disagreements, I am prepared to concede that Gordon is an extremely accomplished chef. He is the man responsible for bringing fusion cooking to Britain. For several years, he ran the Sugar Club in Notting Hill Gate, London, a restaurant that helped make such exotic ingredients as kangaroo fashionable. The Sugar Club still exists (in Piccadilly), but Gordon doesn't cook there any more. He is now joint head chef of the Providores, an unconventional eatery on Marylebone High Street. The Providores is not a restaurant you hear much about: it almost never features on lists of "great places to eat in London". Yet it is, in my view, one of the capital's best. The secret of its appeal lies in its mixture of informality and seriousness. In this, it perfectly reflects the personal style of Gordon.

The Providores is, in effect, two restaurants in one. Downstairs is the "Tapa Room", offering reasonably priced snacks, main courses and puddings. It also offers a superb brunch, which makes it the ideal place to go to fend off a hangover (it is always packed at weekends). Breakfast can be a depressingly predictable meal, but there is nothing predictable about the Providores take on it: Turkish poached eggs with whipped yoghurt and hot chilli butter; sweetcorn and blueberry fritters with avocado, tomato and rocket salad. The great British fry-up it ain't.

Upstairs, a more conventional dining room offers a three-course menu. Here, the food is by no means cheap (main courses cost more than £20), but the quality makes it worth it. The style is modern British - which is to say, not of any particular style. This is cooking that combines ingredients and influences from any number of countries; it is totally eclectic. In the wrong hands, such an approach would be disastrous, but at the Providores nothing seems out of place. Roast "Welsh Black" beef is served with cassava chips, spinach, Puy lentils and pomegranate and molasses: a perfect balance of sweet and savoury. The puddings are similarly well thought out. You might not think that banana, cashew nuts and coconut would work together, but take my word for it - they do.

This article first appeared in the 23 May 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The nuclear charm offensive