The Test Kitchen
As much culinary laboratory as kitchen, The Test Kitchen is considered amongst the finest restaurants in South Africa—and for hardcore dining enthusiasts visiting Cape Town, it’s a must-do (do everything it takes to get a table). Chef Luke Dale-Roberts—who spent several years taking his former project, La Colombe (in Constantia), to the forefront of the international dining scene (critics crossed hemispheres to sample his menus)—not only attracts serious foodies and gourmands (and ladies out to lunch), but literally reinvented the Cape Town restaurant scene by establishing Woodstock’s very first fine dining venue. The move from the pristine vineyard-encrusted suburbs to the burgeoning semi-industrial district let the world know that Cape Town’s expansion eastwards is in full swing.
The refurbished former warehouse space is elegant and retrained, with exposed oak beams and red industrial piping running along the walls. But focus goes to the open kitchen—if you’re curious, bag a seat at the counter and witness a session of culinary bravado that far transcends any televised cooking show.
Luke and his team of young chefs turn out splendid, definitely memorable creations that retain the maestro’s love-affair with Asian-influences, but are the result of ideas that come to him in the middle-of-the-night: How about pan-seared veal tongue and scallops done with a puree of peanut and elephant garlic, pancetta, bourbon and oak velouté, ginger and spring onions? Or perhaps slow-cooked organic sweet potatoes, shortrib and maple braising liquor, roasted bone marrow, and compressed eringi mushroom? Or rack of lamb glazed with dark beer and doenjang? No combination of words really does enough to suggest what happens in the mouth.
Incidentally, Luke also excels at imaginative cocktails—his aloe vera, gin, crushed berry and yuzu fizz is a must-try. Dinner means a choice of set menus (including one for vegetarians), and lunch offers slightly easier-on-the-wallet a la carte options.