Bella Vista has been a popular Geraldton eatery for a number of years, thought by many to serve the best coffee in town, and there was much excitement when word started to spread that they were moving to bigger and better premises down the road.
Luckily Geraldtonians are a patient lot, because preparation of the new premises took quite a long time. Just as people were starting to roll their eyes and shrug whenever someone asked them if they knew when Bella Vista were moving (and long after I started rolling my eyes), it finally happened and the new and improved venture The Provincial opened in July.
My sister K and her husband D visited not long after the grand reopening, and gave extremely favourable reviews. In fact, D loved it so much that he apparently dealt with K’s absence when she and I were off in Bali by consoling himself with their dinners on more than one occasion.
With such glowing reports, expectations were high when I visited the new premises with D, my parents and my friend L who I was passing through town with on our way up to Coral Bay.
Everything looks new and clean and fresh when you first enter The Provincial, and you can tell that some thought and effort has gone into the kit out. I like how they’ve carried through the stencil theme from Bella Vista, and I hope that the walls continue to grow in character(s) over time.
The drink options are numerous, with 11 red and 13 white wines available by the glass ranging from $5 for the “house range” up to $15 for the most expensive of the others, and a larger range available by the bottle. There is also a range of beers, ciders and spirits, and limited cocktails, liqueur coffees and dessert wines.
The boys were easy to please with the beer and spirit options, but Mum took her time going through the white wines before finally settling on one that I can no longer remember. When the drinks came out I had to send mine back as it had lime cordial in it when I just wanted some fresh lime (I’ve had this happen a few times, despite always specifying “just fresh lime” – do I really need to also say “and no cordial”?) and Mum was quite disappointed to be told that they only had half a glass left of the wine she had thought long and hard about ordering.
To their credit they gave her this half glass for free, and she enjoyed it while looking some more at the drink options and settling on the Vistamar Sauvignon Blanc ($8.50/gl) which I think she actually ended up enjoying more than the original selection anyway. We then tried to concoct a plan to always order wines that were only left in piddly proportions in the bar, thus getting an extra free thinking glass to to sip while perusing the menu for your real order, but we couldn’t come up with a foolproof method so we turned our attention to the food menu instead.
Brother-in-law D and friend L made up their food minds pretty easily, choosing to go with the “angel hair pasta with WA crabmeat, chili, garlic, fresh tomato and white wine” ($24) that I have had before at Bella Vista and absolutely loved. Dad went with a similar dish of “linguine di mare with WA scallops, prawn, calamari & local fish” ($28) and also ordered the “buttered steamed kipfler potatoes” ($6) on the side (yes, a side of potatoes to go with a big pasta dish.. my Dad laughs in the face of carbs).
Mum and I took much longer to decide though, with both of us very indecisive and then thinking perhaps to share a few things between us but then our combined indecision was greater than the sum of its parts. After much deliberation we finally settled on sharing the “eggplant stuffed with tomato, garlic, parsley, lemon then wood fire roasted” ($16.50), pizza of “WA scallops, red wine glazed onions, fresh pesto, topped with fresh rocket” ($24) and “wok tossed wilted Asian greens” ($8.50).
When we went to give our orders however, we were told they had no scallops. Great. This piece of information would have been useful before we spent 15 minutes trying to make up our minds. I wondered if perhaps they had a couple of leftover scallops I could nibble on while Mum drank her bonus wine while we tried to reach another new decision, but then I just asked if we could substitute the missing scallops on the pizza with prawns and this was fine.
The stuffed eggplant was as deliciously rich as it looks. A generous size, it actually turned out to be so rich in flavour that we decided it would not be possible to eat on your own. We were even struggling to get through our respective halves before finding the flavours overwhelming. Before reaching our limits though, we did enjoy the depth of flavour in the stuffing and the smokiness of the aubergine.
I didn’t get much by way of adjectives from Dad about his linguine, but he polished it off very happily so it must have been good. It was also a generous size, and seemed to have a decent amount of seafood through it. I note that he has a number of scallops in there, so I guess the kitchen did have scallops but just didn’t want to use them on the pizzas? I don’t know..
The angel hair pasta is a joy to eat. As mentioned, I’ve had it before at Bella Vista and loved the delicate flavours, al dente pasta and generous chunks of crab running through. This night was no exception, and both D and L really enjoyed their mains. Crabtastic and/or crabalicious may have been uttered. It may be a little lacking in presentation finesse, but this is definitely a must-try dish. I wish I had some now.
The pizza prawns were bursty and fresh, the glazed onions just sweet enough and the pesto also tasted fresh, but the overall package of the pizza was disappointing. The toppings were spread too haphazardly, and they needed to either extend the toppings out further to the edge, or oil the remaining large bare areas because we were presented with a lot of dry crust that we left on the plate. The pizza was also missing the promised fresh rocket which would possibly have helped to alleviate this dryness.
Family members have been back to try their other pizzas and enjoyed them, so perhaps they are worth a second chance.
Dad enjoyed his buttered spuds, eating every last one (I think maybe D may have given him a hand) and Mum and I both enjoyed the greens although I was a little surprised at the small serving.
After some time to digest and a little deliberation time, L chose to sit out dessert while the rest of us piggy members of my family eagerly ordered away. There are a few dessert options on the menu and also a number of choices in the cake fridge to choose from. Dad and I chose the lime and lemon tart, D went with the chocolate ganache, and Mum liked the sound of the little matchstick (and I tried to not think of the Little Matchstick Girl – oh how that story made me cry when I was little! If only she had some cream filled pastry to see her through the night!)
The lime and lemon tart was a winner. A nice thin layer of short pastry and a tart, super lemony filling – exactly how I like my lemon tarts. Mum graciously helped me eat this, which was just as well given that I’d eaten more than my fair share of our other shared dishes.
D shared his chocolate ganache around for all to taste, and we found it deliciously chocolatey but quite rich. Definitely one for the chocolate lover to order, with it’s dense mud cake texture and viscous ganache coating. I was a little confused by the name of the dish though – when she said they had a chocolate ganache on the dessert menu my brain conjured up an image of a big bowl of ganache served with a spoon (perfect for the little match girl who was still hanging around up there). When I peeked inside the cake fridge though I realised it was a chocolate cake, presumably covered in ganache and macadamia nuts. Whatever you call it, it tasted good and the thick dense cake went very well with the soft, creamy ice cream.
The look of horror on Mum’s face when she realised she had squished her pastry into a gloopy mess before I had a chance to photograph it was priceless. The little squishable dessert was just the right size to have a little sweet naughtiness to finish off your meal. It also allowed her a little extra stomach room to assist me in finishing off my dessert.
While there were a few disappointing features to the overall experience – running out of the Mum’s wine Mum and scallops (well, pizza scallops anyway) and failing to communicate this to us prior to ordering, the possibly over-reduced sauce of the eggplant becoming overwhelming and the disappointing pizza – the remainder of the dishes and the night in general were all positive. Prices are certainly not cheap, but this is Geraldton after all and food is even pricier here than it is in Perth, so this is unsurprising.
Although I wouldn’t order the same dishes again I will certainly be heading back to The Provincial, if only to eat the crabby angel hair pasta and try my luck at scoring a free half glass of wine.
The Provincial Cafe & Wine Bar
Address: 167 Marine Terrace, GERALDTON 6530
Phone: 08 9964 1887
Website: The Provincial Facebook Page
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 7am – 11:30pm; Sundays & Public Hols: 8am – 10:30pm
Breakfast menu until 11:30am
Bar menu 11:30am – 9:30pm
Wood fired pizza menu 11:30am – 10pm
Lunch and dinner menu 12 – 9:30pm
We Paid: ~$45/head including drinks, mains and dessert