This is one of those local restaurants that have been around since anybody can remember and in my memory, it looks pretty much the same today as it did back in the early 1980’s.
For those who can remember that time before the various national chains of pizza and pasta restaurants spawned on every high street across the country, Pizza Provencale’s unique and maverick style of pizza has not been imitated and through the decades it has remained very popular with its loyal customers.
Love it or hate it are the usual opinions from visitors and with this in mind, we decide to pay a visit and see for ourselves. Knowing that the speciality here is pizza and pasta, it is difficult to forgo any preconceived notions of Italian food or which derivative from the peninsula it came from. Keeping my expectations as low as possible, little did I know that this would be one of my most mix-feeling dining experiences.
The restaurant is cosy, dimly lit with aged wooden panelling and filled vintage decorations which look like they have not been rearranged since the restaurant opened. The staffs are friendly and just when you are deciding on what to order; you cannot help but notice that the pizzas are exceptionally large. Upon ordering, we were advised again by our waitress that the large size pizzas are best suited for sharing in a group and not ideal for individual consumption.
We ordered a regular Charcuterie pizza to share (£13.85) which was tomato base with toppings including mozzarella cheese, spicy beef, ham, Pepperoni & herbs. When you have a pizza in any other place, you can assume that the pizza crust can be generally classified into thin, classic or deep pan. This is probably the most unique aspect about the pizzas here is that there is no choice for the type of crust and that it is unbelievably thick, resembling a super thick deep pan to what you are used to, or closer to that of a pizza bread. Whilst the taste of the blend of toppings is perfectly fine, the pizza’s substantial crust base made the pizza taste a little dry. The emphasis leans slightly towards quantity as oppose to quality. Although it is possible to for someone hungry to finish a regular pizza, 3 slices of a regular pizza for average appetites is realistically closer to an adequate individual portion in a meal.
Given the unique interpretation of pizza here, we also ordered a couple of pasta dishes to share to see what can further surprise our expectations. Of course the Spaghetti Bolognese (£7.95) would be a likely choice and a good benchmark to measure, but unfortunately this turned out to be the underachiever of the meal. Just as it is hard to imagine spoiling a simple Spaghetti Bolognese, the result was a dry sauce with faintest trace of tomato to balance the meat. We also ordered a Lasagne Al Forno (£9.45) which was comparatively better in taste but not outstanding. One positive was that it came with a large side salad. I was surprised to find both pasta dishes were a stark contrast to the gargantuan pizzas in quality and quantity. I imagine I would have been better off ordering another pizza instead. As you might expect, there was just not enough room to have desserts. Whilst looking around, there were more people leaving the restaurant with leftover bags than having desserts.
Overall, the dining experience was positive but the bread like pizza is not what you would expect when visiting similar eateries. Regardless of my feeling on food quality, the restaurant was in fact quite full for a weekday evening which demonstrates there is no shortage of loyal patrons. Love it or hate it. Take it or leave it. It might not be suited to everyone’s tastes but it is worth a try at some point if you have not been. Perhaps just to experience something quite different from what you usually get, but for me, I can think of quite a few alternative restaurants to try before until I come back for another go.
29, Regent Street, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4HR
Tel. 0117 974 1175