#STFFonTour in South Africa – The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale Roberts

March 29, 2013
We’re in Cape Town for a week, a holiday within our 3 week holiday. When I left South Africa 13 years ago it was very much a ‘chain restaurants’ sort of place – great steak and great seafood but not very much that was unique. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t into food as much as I am now and so I never sought out what was different?A couple of very good friends of ours live in Cape Town and fortunately for me they are also mad about all things food and wine. So when we planned our trip I was very grateful for their expert guidance on some of the fabulous places to try. That coupled with a bit of research and some help from my Twitter friends, I compiledquite a nice list!Right at the very top of my list was The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale Roberts. Voted South Africa’s number 1 restaurant in 2012. Luke Dale Roberts hasquite an impressive pedigree having trained at the  famed Bauer Au Lac Hotel in Zurich and having cooked with the Roux brothers protégé Kevin Hopgood.

Located in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock Cape Town, the area is quite rough around the edges, but the industrial decor fits in perfectly with the surroundings. (On a side note, Dale Roberts has recently opened another tapas restaurant in the same complex called The Pot Luck Club). Initially The Test Kitchen was only a 30 covers restaurant, but became so popular that El Bulli style waiting lists were becoming common place according to our waiter. When the unit next door became available, Dale Roberts snapped it up, but it is still pretty difficult to get a reservation such is the quality of this restaurant!
At lunch time there is an a la carte menu and a 5 course tasting menu. There is also a 10 course menu gourmand in the evenings. As we’d travelled all this way, it would’ve been rude not to try the 5 course lunch menu with wine pairing! As I don’t know too much about wine, other than what I do and what I don’t like, I am not going to make too much of a mention of it.For the first course we had home dried tomato, black sesame and aubergine puree, burnt aubergine jelly, smoked goats cheese and aged balsamic paired with a Sequillo White 2011. Every single flavour on this plate was intense and the home dried tomato just exploded in your mouth, it was so full of flavour. One in our group doesn’t like aubergine, but it had a gorgeous smokiness to it that he mopped up every last remaining morsel with the bread that was on our table. The restaurant has a wood burning oven outside and I was told that the aubergines are roasted for 8 hours to get the intense smoky taste to them.


Our next course was a seared gamefish, in this case yellowfin tuna, red cabbage three ways, apple dressing with horseradish emulsion served with Raats Original Chenin Blanc 2012. In one word – sublime! For all of us, this was the best course!

 

Next was lightly smoked beef fillet, gorgonzola catalan, fresh pear, candied pecan nut, grated nutmeg. The wine choice was Bosman Family Vineyards Dolce Primitivo 2010, a really interesting choice as it was a fortified wine that was almost Port like in nature. Very enjoyable and a great choice as the sweetness cut through the creamy Gorgonzola and smoky flavour of the beef.
For our mains there were 3 choices and I chose the pan fried line fish, which was Kingclip, calamari, marjoram and cherry tomato ragout, polenta gnocchi with light saffron cream. Paired with Constantia Uitsig Unwooded Chardonnay 2012. The fish was cooked perfectly and the calamari beautifully tender. This wine was probably my least favourite, but I am not a great fan of Chardonnay, so it’s more personal preference than anything else.
We had another choice of 3 desserts and I chose Luke’s Caprese: Baby roma tomatoes and gooseberries in basil & black pepper syrup, strachiatella, yoghurt snowballs, olive tuiles, basil granite. This sounded really interesting. Tomatoes in a dessert? I had to try it! I am so glad I did. It was perfectly balanced with just the right amount of sweetness to end off a fantastic meal. My dessert was paired with Thelema Rhine Riesling Late Harvest 2009, another great choice.

The waiting staff were all super and really passionate about their product. Our waiter, Basil, had interesting stories about all the wine we had and knew exactly why they were chosen with each dish. The sommelier, Wayve (yes, that’s her name!) was extremely knowledgeable yet didn’t make you feel inferior as some sommeliers can do. The restaurant is very laid back – there were people there in shorts – which you would not find in a restaurant of that calibre in London.  But maybe that’s just Cape Town? The open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant adding to the buzz and it was amazing to see how many people it took to run an operation like that. I was truly, truly impressed!The total bill for four came to R3300 (Approx.GBP235) including service for a 5 course tasting menu with wine pairing and 4 glasses of champagne and 4 licquors. It is easy to see why this restaurant was voted number 1 in South Africa last year. Cape Town is very lucky indeed to have such a gem!We will be leaving the homeland in a week. I’ve eaten at some fantastic restaurants while here, but I have a bucket list to be ticking off and next on that list is a meal at The Delaunay.

Until we eat again!

 

 

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2 Comments

  • Reply The Test Kitchen: The Best Restaurant in South Africa - Silverspoon London July 21, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    […] 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 […]

  • Reply accommodation oxford December 22, 2015 at 10:27 am

    This restaurant will be heaven to any foodie. It is fine dining at its best. Nothing less expected from one of the top SA chefs. Don’t miss it!

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