It isn’t often that foodies get the rare treat of enjoying a chef’s creativity without the confines of a wider establishment, which make’s Luke Dale Roberts’ offering to the Cape Town dining scene all the more significant. Sasha Arms does the taste test…
The Test Kitchen is about allowing British-born chef Luke Dale Roberts to push the boundaries with his cuisine, and diners sense The Test Kitchen is both a labour of love and a well-deserved treat for the internationally renowned chef. And who could blame a chef with endorsements as covetable as Luke’s? With training by the likes of Kevin Hopgood, a Roux brothers’ charge; a track record of coining new award-winning restaurants spanning the globe; featuring in the world’s top 100 restaurants with The Test Kitchen; and coming 12th place in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in Africa while at La Colombe in South Africa’s Constantia wine region, Luke has a thing or two to be proud of. The Test Kitchen is his way of owning a piece of the culinary world without interference and it’s definitely 100% Luke Dale Roberts.
You wouldn’t expect a man like Luke Dale Roberts to do a mediocre job in any restaurant, and The Test Kitchen further solidifies this widespread opinion of the chef. Of course, the menu is an organic process and alters with changing produce and seasons. One thing that is for sure is that if you’re going for a Luke Dale Roberts experience, you must do it wholeheartedly and take the eight course Gourmand menu. Each course encapsulates perfectly honed flavours and textures and even foods that are not to everyone’s taste, such as foie gras or veal tongue, can help to change age-old misconceptions about foodstuffs. Enjoyed to the backdrop of the open kitchen, dusky dark wood furniture and warehouse style textures, the taste experience is made richer alongside the visual affair.
There’s something a bit special about The Test Kitchen staff as well. Knowledgeable about food, seasoning and the wines the food is paired with, they seem to have a genuine interest in their job and surroundings. According to Luke Dale Roberts, they are unimpeachably encouraged to find their own personalities and interests within The Test Kitchen, rather than made to conform to a self-imposed style found in so many restaurants. The top notch training complemented by real personalities certainly helps to create a rare dining experience at The Test Kitchen.
The Test Kitchen is an important reminder that pretension and arrogance has no sincere place in the culinary world. The combination of real and talented people amidst the up-and-coming Woodstock district of Cape Town creates a dining experience far superior to The Test Kitchen’s exclusive and restrictive competitors. Maybe Luke Dale Roberts is content with doing his own thing at The Test Kitchen, but his international fans will surely be vying for his attention in their corners of the globe soon. My vote’s in for London…
The Test Kitchen: The Hungry Nomad verdict
Best bit: The anticipation for each round of food and the rush that comes with the unpredictable ingenuity when you take that first bite. Roberts’ humble and open attitude wins him a big thumbs up too – there’s no tiring arrogance of the internationally renowned chef here.
Worst bit: Trying to find the place in a taxi – it’s a little off the beaten track.
Our idea menu for two:
Do it properly and go for the Gourmand menu, with wine pairings, at 950 Rand per person. The pleasure the staff have in telling you all about each course and wine is as much yours as it is theirs. This is one of the latest Gourmand menus with wines (2012):
Rare grilled marlin, served with red cabbage three ways and apple dressing with horseradish emulsion
Wine – Sequillo White Blend 2010
Lightly cooked Franschoek trout, served with aubergine nitsuke, tamarind dressing and lime purée
Wine – Paul Cluver Riesling 2010
Rare cooked fillet of beef, served with blue cheese catalan, pear and pecans, and liver and apple glacage
Wine – Bosman Dolce Primitivo 2010
Crayfish and foie gras scottati, served with Luke’s XO dressing and crayfish braised rice
Wine – Newton Johnson Chardonnay 2010
Slow cooked organic sweet potatoes, accompanying shortrib and maple braising liquor, roasted bone marrow,
and compressed eringi mushroom
Wine – Paul Cluver Pinot Noir 2009
Clementine, calamansi and yuzu sorbet, Amaro Montenegro, Campari and orange jelly
Wild mushroom and duck liver chawanmushi, served with morel glazed sweetbreads, a variety of onions and burnt thyme foam
Wine – Lazanou Organic Red Blend 2009
Slow clam extraction with farfalle and oysters
Wine – The Foundry Grenache blanc 2011
Pan seared local duck, served with sake steamed foie gras, kumquats, turnip purée, jasmine consommé and herbs
Wine – Paul Cluver Seven Flags Pinot Noir 2009
Lemon chawanmushi, lemon and apple foam, meringues, almond and lemon powder
Wine – Paul Cluver Riesling NLH 2010
Chocolate marquise, served with liquorice meringue, beetroot purée and goat yoghurt curd
Wine – Catherine Marshall Myriad Port 2007
TOTAL: 1900 Rand (approximately £135), plus service