Provence Marinaside has one of the most delightful patios in Vancouver; minimal traffic on the adjacent road, spectacular water views and some of the most entertaining peoplewatching (the tiny expensive dogs! the enormous expensive cleavage!). Unfortunately, the restaurant seems content to rest on the laurels of these considerable assets and allow the food to slide into inoffensive but uninspired blandness. The service, too, left much to be desired on the night my friend and I had dinner there. We had made reservations for a patio table but were seated by our palpably disinterested host at a table for two that was overshadowed by a dense and oppressive topiary that completely obscured the view. I was put in mind of Charlie Brown's kite-eating tree. When we asked the bus-person if we could move to another table, he told us to ask our server when we saw her. Why couldn't he have notified her of our request himself? We waited half an hour for our meal, which, on a balmy, sunlit evening is no hardship, but doesn't speak well of the service. And our server was replaced halfway through our meal without having done us the courtesy of letting us know she was going off-shift.
The crab cakes were not bad, although they were served with a sauce that, despite its exotic pistachio green hue, tasted like mayonnaise. My friend ordered the special, a striped bass that was described as being served whole, with head and tail intact; however, our server returned a few minutes later to announce that it was now being served as a fillet instead. Unsettling. I ordered the vegetarian platter, which comprised a medley of roasted vegetables, asparagus, zucchini "spaghetti" (angel-hair strips of steamed zucchini), chickpea patties and millet pilaf. We both agreed that our meals, though adequate, were quite oily and oddly flavourless. My pilaf, in particular, was an ice-cold concoction of diced tomato and slightly undercooked grain that had no discernible dressing or flavouring--something along the lines of an unsuccessful Capers deli item. My friend was similarly disappointed in his bass (which arrived headless, tailless and ruthlessly dismembered into small chunks) and roasted fennel, both of which were oily and flavourless. We ordered a double chocolate cake to share and agreed that it could have come out of an Easy-Bake oven--two gritty, gluey layers cemented together with frosting made of icing sugar and brown crayon. (Forgive the bitterness, but I am passionate about cake.)
It was still wonderful to sit outdoors, sip wine and watch the sun set on our beautiful city but, oh, why can't we have all this AND a competent meal?