If you are visiting Cape Town, or planning to, you might well have heard about some of the great restaurants that are ready to host your indulgence in epicurean pleasures: La Colombe, The Greenhouse, Overture, The Tasting Room, and Reuben’s to name but a few of the top performers. But the last few years have been dominated by a new force on the scene: The Test Kitchen. Brainchild of renowned local chef Luke Dale-Roberts, this phenomenal restaurant has rocketed to the top of the ratings, and is just quite sublime on every level. Have a look below at some of the creations coming out of this kitchen: is it food and or art? Whichever it is: unbelievable, stunning.../add various other adjectives here/.
Luke opened his own restaurant because he craved complete freedom for his creativity and talent. The Test Kitchen, as its name implies, affords Luke the opportunity for maximum innovation as a chef and the dishes are a pure reflection of his creativity with flavours and ingredients.
“The most important thing is flavour, and layers of flavour” explains Luke. “What we do at The Test Kitchen is always a bit different. That is our constant. I need to move forward. Everything in my life has to be about progress. And quality.”
Luke gets some serious praise from the hottest chefs in the world. For example: “A truly fantastic chef, he has this ability of putting seemingly incongruent ingredients together in such a way that they work amazingly well – which is something close to my heart.” Heston Blumenthal, Chef and Owner, The Fat Duck.
“When Luke is working closely with his team it seems more like he’s dancing with them – it’s a performance! … his thrilling flavours have pushed the boundaries and eating his food is simply heart-stopping.” Abigail Donnelly, Editor and Awards judge, Eat Out
Whilst it is not cheap, eating at the Test Kitchen for me has been an annual treat, and has never disappointed. Every detail in the restaurant has been custom designed and thought through with care and attention. Local designers have created bespoke furniture, cutlery, crockery and interior features. This authentic feel creates a transparency which gels with the open plan kitchen where the chefs never stop moving, constantly cooking and prepping the next jus, infusion, noisette, ragout or reduction. This meticulous planning and attention to detail just shows the dedication that this team has to putting out the perfect plates of dream food every time.
Another aspect I like is that the staff are very well trained, lending a sense of gravitas to what is always a slightly special occasion, but no starchy pomp. They know the food and the wine, plus they will be able to de-mystify or translate the menu for the average punters, who like great food, but do not know all the fancy terminology. So when you get hit with: “Assiette of chocolate, grilled white chocolate cinnamon sponge, caramelia cremeux, guanja parfait”, they will explain what is what is where on your plate. And they will always be ready to share a lighter moment too: a good quality in a waitron. The other plus factor is that for vegetarians, there are some great options, rather than being treated as second class citizens like at many other restaurants.
To experience the flavour combinations on offer, and the visual feast, is just quite something. And as a friend of mine said, “let’s go to the Lab Kitchen”, which is actually kinda accurate: experimental combinations of seemingly incongruent flavours, layered together so subtly that they just tickle each bud in your mouth.
I think it’s fitting to end this post with a quote from the boss: “The Test Kitchen is serious, fun. Our food is free to roam in whichever direction. If there is no immediate smile as we create a new dish then we are on the wrong track. I want guests to be surprised and delighted, to wonder what ingredients we have used and how we made it. It should be an adventure!” LDR
Oh by the way, if you are planning to visit the Test Kitchen, book now for your meal in 2014. It is quite popular!!
Below is the menu of what we ate on our most recent visit..and some photos I took, or tried to. Quite tricky when under low light at night (my only excuse!) Note: this menu might well have changed by the time you visit in a month from now!
All above images from testkitchen.co.za
Grilled scallop, asparagus, tofu miso suke, braised scallop dressing, miso on toast, braised shitake, raw shitake
Plum cured foie gras, guava and cinnamon confit, halva croquette, pulled
Pickled Fish: Yellowtail ceviche, granny smiths, barbecued carrots, curry dressing, crème fraiche
Slow cooked pork belly, parsley pressed apples, wild rosemary infused honey, blue cheese cream and crackling
Green: Fennel, apple, shiso
Pan fried line fish, cauliflower and quail egg ravioli, charred spring onion and fennel salad, roasted fish velouté
Braaied lamb chop, spiced bean ragout, smoked lamb tongue and yoghurt curd
Caramelised poached pear, beurre noisette ice cream, brioche
Assiette of chocolate, grilled white chocolate cinnamon sponge, caramelia cremeux, guanja parfait
Selection of South African cheese with fruit preserve: gorgonzola, mature cheddar, camembert, goat’s milk