Trying The Test Kitchen:
I just loved the idea of this restaurant; to be able to try new and innovative dishes being created by talented chefs in front of your eyes, and then be invited to give feedback. The Test Kitchen is the brainchild of Adam Simmonds, where he is inviting the public to become part of the creative process giving them a chance to influence what may well be on the menu when Adam opens a permanent restaurant. It’s situated in the heart of bustling Soho on Frith Street, and as a ‘pop up’ restaurant it isn’t covered in logos.
Diners sit around an L shaped counter where they watch the chefs in action. It was fascinating to see the level of attention to detail given to each component of the dishes (and it made it clear that whilst I’m a perfectly competent home cook, I’m never going to reach these levels of perfection). The chefs come to the diners with each finished dish to explain what it is, and to answer any questions that the diners might have about its preparation.
Whilst we browsed the menu we enjoyed some expertly mixed aperitives. A coffee infused Aperol for me, which sounded strange but was amazing, and a carefully prepared Old Fashioned for Alex.
The menu is split into four sections, each with between three to five choices. Diners are advised that these are small plates, and to consider ordering three per person. Our first selection was accompanied by sourdough bread with the most golden homemade salted butter.
From the Veg (sic) section of the menu, I opted for Broad beans, girolles, onion and pine broth. This was served up with the broth being added by the chef at the counter. This was a really pretty dish, with the vinegar from the onions adding a nice bite to the dish. I wish I’d had a spoon for the delicious broth though!
Alex had opted for the heritage tomatoes, burrata, olive and courgette vegetable dish. A great example of simple ingredients being able to shine together. There was a nice selection of wines by the glass and I had a Sancerre with mine, and Alex a white Rioja which was a great choice with the burrata.
From the fish selection, I opted for scallop ceviche with green asparagus and avocado. The thin strips of asparagus added a delightful crunch to the softness of plump scallop, and the avocado a touch of richness along with the pearls of caviar.
Alex opted for the cured red mullet with green tomatoes, rocket, and green strawberries. The green strawberries added a nice acidic element to the dish, along with what seemed to be a green granita.
As it was now late summer, a couple of seasonal dishes have been added to the menu. Alex opted for the 70 day aged Sirloin with bone marrow, date and white onion. We were able to sample a couple of wines to accompany this course, carefully poured and described by the excellent sommelier. Alex decided that to accompany this he would have a glass of a Spanish Mencia. This worked well with the bold flavours of the beef and bone marrow.
I went for the Grouse with Blaeberries (another name for Bilbury), beetroot, coco nibs and pine. I enjoyed a fabulous big velvety glass of Morgon with this. The dish was delicious having been cooked sous vide, I particularly enjoyed the earthy beetroot and coco nib accompaniments.
For dessert, I choose yellow peach with sorrel and raspberry. This is my perfect kind of dessert, I can almost consider it virtuous (although I doubt very much that it is!)
Alex’s dessert was much more dramatic, described as milk chocolate with pine, blackcurrant, and pistachio, it contained a surprise! I’m sure that this must be technically very difficult. The chef who served us this had a great sense of humour and said that he wasn’t allowed in front of the customers!
As we filled in the cards inviting feedback on the food it was lovely to see that feedback from previous customers had been taken on board; for example, portion sizes have increased, and background music provided. Our piece of feedback was on behalf of vegetarians. The two dishes we had tried were both beautiful and delicate, but not as substantial as the meat dishes, as a vegetarian you might leave here feeling hungry. It was great fun though, especially seeing the younger chefs being coached and taught by Adam.
Adam told me that the Test Kitchen would be open for 12 months and that he then hopes to open a restaurant in Marylebone. I would like to wish him every success in his new venture, as his attention to detail, the beautiful food, and his careful training and nurturing of younger less experienced chefs all deserve to be rewarded with great success.
We were guests of Test Kitchen