2 December 2016

Testing the new Test Kitchen

Cape Town’s world class Test Kitchen in the artsy neighbourhood of Woodstock has been redefined. And I was one of the first to experience it a couple of weeks ago.

This may not sound particularly impressive for someone who never misses a beat when it comes to culinary, but given their competitive new booking system, trust me it’s an accomplishment worth mentioning! Bookings can only be made online, one month in advance, on the 1st day of each month and literally sell out within 15 minutes.

Your burning question at this point will undoubtedly be … so what’s all the fuss for? That's what I'm about to tell you.     

Their new ‘recipe’, is a complete culinary and cosmetic transformation of a Dark Room, Light Room combination - only to be experienced after dusk and never with more than 39 other people to share the space with. And they get it right on so many levels.

My first thoughts were, and I’m sure you’d have shared the same sentiments. Why would a restaurant ranked a respectable 22nd best restaurant in the world change anything? According to Test Kitchen Founder and world class chef extraordinaire Luke Dale Roberts, the original restaurant serving 60-65 guests for lunch and dinner five days a week become too busy. He wanted to bring it back to what he had intended it to be from the start - a group of ‘tweezer chefs’ as he affectionately names them spending every day crafting and perfecting their culinary artistry.

In the 21st century a good restaurant is defined by so many things in addition to the food and Luke gets the whole package spot on!

Our experience kicked off with an intimate tasting in the hedonistic Dark Room – a deliberate contrast from the bustling streets of Woodstock, and a place that according to Time Magazine ‘became Cape Town’s hottest district when Luke opened the Test Kitchen there’. I firmly agree.

We huddled round our low lit table, torches in hand, savouring every sip and morsel of our six shared courses and cocktails of choice. Highlights being the savoury Billionaires shortbread, local liquorice cured Wagyu biltong and pork scratching dipped in Guinness - by far the most unique. I know, you’re salivating like a teething toddler. Don’t worry, so was I! 

From there we transcended in a euphoric state to the poised and airy Light Room for an exquisitely plated eight course tasting menu paired with out-of-this-world wines. Not only were our eyes adjusting light contrasts, but the buzz and aromas wafting from the kitchen. Being the wine maven’s we are, part of our party chose the gourmand wines and the rest chose the iconic-impossible-to-get-your-hands-on-anywhere-else-wines. Both were delicious! Food highlights here: vanilla peach and rose scented foie gras, 12 hour smoked sea bass and for desert chamomile ice cream with a twist.

It all sounds pretty filling and although you’ve had sufficient by the time the curtain closes, the dishes are fairly petite. A solid four hour fine dining experience, two cocktails and eight paired glasses of wine later, we’d recommend you don’t book a 6am hike the next morning!

This experimental food theatre has become a mainstay on the foodie traveller scene in Cape Town and is better than ever. Visiting Cape Town and not experiencing an evening at The Test Kitchen would be like going to Paris and ignoring the Eiffel Tower. It’s become increasingly difficult to get into their booking system so be patient and passionate if the website crashes in the process. It's worth the frustration.

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