My man loves fine dining, but, when push comes to shove, may say ‘yay’ to pub grub over refined fare, with the chance to let his (non-existent) hair down. Every so often he takes me out for lunch or dinner, insisting that it is not work, nor a review, and I am not allowed to take notes or photographs! Having dined at The Test Kitchen, earlier in August, it was as exciting to return for a completely different experience. After a warm welcome from Luke and his team we settled in at the counter to relax and unwind. Struggling to make a choice from the á la carte menu, our waiter Jason stepped in and advised whilst we quenched our thirst with a craft beer and a glass of bubbly. No sight of wine pairings here as renowned sommelier Tinashe has curated a wine list that includes some of his personal bests.
We finally decided on the pressed terrine of the day for my man (duck and date it was), with pistachios, layered with chicken liver parfait, served with a small house salad and charred sourdough. I opted for the tasty smoked trout with brown bread, pickled dill and cucumber salad, sauce verte and lemon. After Sandalene Dale Roberts raved about her fish and chips, I had that too, of course with mushy peas (elevated to be called a pea emulsion here) with a warm (and uber-tasty) tartare sauce. I proceeded to interrogate Luke about how the fish was cooked, as it was undoubtedly the best, lightest fried fish in batter I have ever had. Light, crispy and piping hot. My date raved about the rabbit and ham suet pudding.
Luke grew up in Punnetts Town in East Sussex, a small village that boasted about 15 pubs within a mile. He and head chef Cuan have had fun representing their heritage (both are British). I have no doubt that it will constantly evolve, as here are two chefs who constantly experiment and innovate. I remember devouring a dish at TTK last year, the beef with Yorkshire pud, which landed on the cover of the 2019 JHP Gourmet Guide.
I watched the team (a full 22 of them) hard at work for lunch, displaying the equivalent skill and technique demanded for the full TTK experience as they prepped for dinner. I spied the succulent, delicious-looking mini-beef Wellington with a port jus, which will be my choice if I return. There was no space for dessert or the cheese board…another good reason for a repeat performance…and prices are palatable – dishes range from R95 to R220.
There is something very nostalgic about traditional English fare, and something even more special when you devour it in one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, three-plated Test Kitchen. Running until 21 October, Wednesday to Friday lunchtime, is Ye Olde Test Kitchen, so make you reservation now. And by the way, I heard chef say that soon there will be lobster thermidor on the menu…