When I lived in New York for two years, working as a corporate lawyer, eating out at some of the best restaurants in the world became a regular weekly event and very soon lost its appeal for me. And although I really enjoy good food, I am not a foodie, and am as happy eating a beautifully prepared home-cooked meal made with love. It has always been more about the company than the food or ambience.
The Test Kitchen crawled onto my Cape Town to-do list, like an aging diva past its prime, because I felt like I needed some variety to my adventure outdoor activities and I haven’t really eaten out a fancy restaurant in years. It is ranked as the best restaurant in South Africa and among the best 50 restaurants in the world. Here it has been sitting in Woodstock a mere 5km away from where I have lived for years and I have never been. Dinner at The Test Kitchen was the last item on my recent Cape Town to-do list for two reasons: (1) the exorbitant and cost-prohibitive price and (2) the ridiculously pretentious booking system.
The restaurant offers an online reservation process and is only available for three-month periods at a time. The booking opens a month in advance and the next available booking period: July – September, was opening on 1 June at 8am. The main Test Kitchen website was completely down when I tried to book but fortunately I randomly stumbled upon another website which granted me direct access to bookings. Sneaky sneaky. That was very lucky because three-months of reservations were basically booked out within an hour. I was waiting for a special occasion to go but since that probably only happens once a year on my birthday (in March or as the Test Kitchen likes to refer to it, in two booking sessions time) I decided to create my own. It is also the last item on my list and I like to tick off lists. So I generated my own special occasions.
And while the Test Kitchen playing hard to get only increases the desire to go, making it even more exclusive, I wonder how amazing the food and ambience must be to justify this booking process and expensive meal. And my basis of comparison are the best restaurants in New York like Per Se, Le Bernadin, Daniel and the Jean Georges of this world. Surely the food must do its own song and dance before you eat it? Or will the food grant me super powers for one day after eating it? I would like the ability to fly. The gallery of food pictures on its website also looks like they are just deconstructing everything which means that I will have to work hard to put my meal together before I eat it.
My American friend who stayed in Cape Town for three months this year commented on how often he heard the word “pretentious” to describe places in Cape Town. It is apparently our favourite adjective and seriously over-used. But perhaps in the case of The Test Kitchen, the use of the word is fully justifiable, their booking system reeks of pretentious pretentiousness (it’s worth using the word twice in these circumstances).
I am not sure that The Test Kitchen would be a good fit for me, my core values and general sense of well-being in the world, and am contemplating cancelling. But since the booking was mission impossible itself I may just go and tick it off the list forever.