It’s always my aim to feature the very best restaurants that I can and when I was doing my research of Cape Town, one name kept coming up.
According to the San Pellegrino restaurant awards The Test Kitchen is voted No. 48 in the world and No.1 in Africa. The Eat Out guide, which was an extremely helpful website while I was planning my trip, agreed with San Pellegrino. And most importantly, my South African blogger buddies, Ashleigh and Sam also loved it! Needless to saw I booked our table well in advance – definitely a necessity – the place is incredibly popular and pretty much always fully booked.
Though Test Kitchen is the very best, don’t expect the white table tables and fancy dining room of your typical fine dining experience.
As you can see The Test Kitchen is more ‘industrial chic’ with exposed brick work, concrete floor and pipes running through ceiling. No need to wear jacket and tie or cocktail dress, everyone was dressed casually, this is an experience that completely focusses on food rather than frippery.
The Test Kitchen is located in the Old Biscuit Mill
, a sort of urban village in Woodstock, home to shops, galleries, restaurants and market stalls. Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to revisit it during the day but I’d love to return to look around the creative centre actually based in a former Biscuit Mill.
Though there were tables scattered around the restaurant’s shabby chic interior, Mr S and I were given front row seats with a view of the kitchen!
We had the choice of the five course Discovery Menu or the nine course Gourmand Menu, but as we were in the best restaurant in Africa – we had to go whole hog and have the nine courses. And we went even further and decided to enhance the meal with the iconic South African wine pairings. Actually, it was ridiculously good value for money, the exchange rate is in our favour but even so a tasting menu with a wine pairing would cost more than double in the UK.
We started with a palate cleansing tea made from kombucha
and topped with grapefruit foam and a crystallised rose petal.
It was a very clever drink, if you drank the components all at once it was delicious but if not, the bitter taste of the grapefruit came through very strongly.
Now, my fellow food bloggers will agree with me that it’s very difficult to write about a nine course tasting menu without taking copious notes, asking the waiter lots of questions and generally annoying your dining companions. Instead, I wanted to make this a picture-based post including lots of glimpses into the kitchen and hopefully give a vicarious experience of actually being in this fantastic restaurant. So #SorryNotSorry for the vast number of pictures in this post!
Test Kitchen was opened in 2010 by renowned chef Luke Dale Roberts, who was previously Head Chef at La Colombe
. Luke was born in Britain and trained in Switzerland before a five year stint honing his skills in Asia. He opened The Test Kitchen as an outlet for his creativity, in his own restaurant he could have complete freedom to work with different ingredients and develop innovative cooking methods.
We started off with a selection of appetisers:
Beetroot crisp and foie gras topped with gold leaf.
I *think* this was eel on sushi rice.
Seriously, in places like this a nine course menu is never really nine courses…more like fifteen! And you see can why I couldn’t remember what each was…they’re certainly works of art though.
Accompanied with a selection of three different breads in a sack cloth bag.
First on our wine flight was Bouchard Finlayson Crocodile’s Lair, 2013 to go with our first course. Yes, we hadn’t actually even had the first course yet!
, beetroot and trout’ with lime and parsley apple, miso yaki barbecued beetroot and pickled quails egg. I could already see the Asian influences coming through in Luke’s cooking and I loved this plate of food awash with colour. I also thought it was incredibly clever how the quail’s egg had been infused with the taste of beetroot.
While were eating, we were entranced by the activity from the kitchen and the incredible dishes that these talented chefs were producing.
Our next wine was a bubbly, Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2009.
To go with chilled blini creme, barbecued langoustine ‘en gele’ langoustine tataki and liquorice power. Basically like a deconstructed langoustine canape.
I must also take a moment to mention our waiter, who was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and clearly had a huge passion for food and for the restaurant.
Our lamb rib with rosemary and tomato teriyake and clay baked celeriac was paired with Raats Family Cabernet Franc 2012. It is a more simple and classic dish than some of previous ones, a reflection on Luke’s wish to not be pigeon-holed. He claims to have no mantra governing his food and instead does ‘whatever feels right on the day.’
Being able to see into the kitchen means that the restaurant is like a theatre of food, and there is a strong focus on visual experience as well as flavour.
The Test Kitchen Concrete Ball is presented to table…
With our fish course of kingklip cooking away inside.
The ball is taken away to the kitchen to be plated up along with potato and snoek
medley, black forest ham and fish jus, roasted potato skin puree and smoked red onion foam.
And our waiter poured our accompanying wine, Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2012.
Mr S and I ate our fish whilst watching our next course be prepared for us.
‘TK Springbok’ with chestnuts, liver, beetroot and cocoa nib.
With Mullineux Syrah 2012. Rather fortunately for us (and our photography), our waiter only poured small measures of the wine so we able to enjoy everything without getting drunk.
I’ve mentioned before that whilst enjoying a tasting meu I’ve felt completely fine on the savoury courses, but to quote Mr S ‘They get you on the desserts’ in other words, it’s after all that sweet stuff that I start to feel unwell from so much food.
Our first dessert was fig leaf and raspberry which was lovely, light and refreshing.
Dessert wine is pretty much the only type of wine I don’t like, but Mr S loves it and was able to have two glasses of Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2009.
Our next dessert was simply called ‘Tropical’ and the final bore the single word description ‘Lemon.’
Two light and citrussy desserts that weren’t too sickly after all that food.
I could even manage petits four at the end!
I think that you can see from this visual feast why The Test Kitchen has been voted the best restaurant in Africa. It was by far the best meal that we had during our trip and a real highlight of the whole experience. Just to give you some idea of the popularity, I actually made our March booking in August. However, if you can’t get a table try for Luke Dale Roberts’ other restaurant The Pot Luck Club
, also located in The Old Biscuit Mill.
The Test Kitchen
The Old Biscuit Mill
375 Albert Road