I made the reservation at the Test Kitchen about two month ago with some hesitation over the booking process and the price. The Test Kitchen is the signature restaurant of famous chef Luke Dale Roberts and currently rated as the number one restaurant in South Africa. But as the reservation date rapidly approached I decided it was time to embrace the experience whole-heartedly.
The Dark Room
Saturday night. I’m in a tricksy pantsuit (which proved very difficult to get in and out of) and we have made our way into the Test Kitchen in Woodstock. We started in “the dark room” named apparently because of the poor lighting sitting on comfy couches with low bar tables. The dark room takes you on a culinary journey around the world with eight different light snacks including ceviche from Peru, pork scratching’s from England, Bo-Kaap Slangetjies from South Africa, Ssamjang vegetables from Korea and Stinging Nettle Granita from Japan. It also included two delicious cocktails with a complex fruity flavour profiles like guava, pomelo and num nums.
The Light Room
We then made our way from the dark into the light of the creatively named “the light room”. We were seated by the kitchen and got to watch the kitchen crew in action. The attention to detail and level of precision in the kitchen was impressive.
The menu included 12-hour smoke sea bass tartare, seasonal mushroom and celeriac extraction, char grilled scallop with cauliflower, cheese and black garlic salsa, slow cooked pork belly and pan seared duck breast. There were also three different desserts including (1) strawberry rose ice cream with coconut meringue, minted strawberry sherbet, lemon bush and cinzano snow, (2) bread milk and honey dessert with lemon poppy seed ice-cream and (3) chocolate and marshmallow petit fours with strong cardamom flavouring. Although the portions were bit-sized we had definitely reached our elegant sufficiency (i.e. so stuffed) by the end of the evening.
The Test Kitchen Experience
After an almost 4-hour culinary journey I can say that the experience was entirely worth it. We had an absolute amazing evening even though I got momentarily stuck in the bathroom trying to zip-up my pants suit. The atmosphere was fun, vibey and relaxed which was pleasantly surprising. The service was impeccable and a real highlight to the evening. And the underwhelming and casual décor ensured that the food was the star of the show. It was so delicate and delicious and jam-packed full of root vegetables and intricate flavours. I found about three of the savoury dishes a bit too salty for my palate but perhaps my palate has been underdeveloped by months of bland eating.
For those who have not been, it is definitely a YOLO experience. Take a fun friend(s), dress up and make an occasion of it. It’s too pricey for me to go back again but I live in hope that one day some-one will invite me or perhaps the Test Kitchen itself.
More pictures of the amazing food