SOUTH AFRICA – TOP CHEF (Part 2)


The winners of the 2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards, for Top Chef in South Africa was scooped up by Chef Luke Dale-Roberts owner of The Test Kitchen located at Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill on Albert Road, in Woodstock.

Dale-Roberts use to be the executive chef of La Colombe restaurant at the Constantia Uitsig wine estate in Constantia. During this time, Dale-Roberts took the celebrated fine dining establishment to new heights, culminating most recently in its winning 12th place in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World Awards 2010 and gaining the title of Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in Africa and Middle East.

© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts

As its name implies, The Test Kitchen, though primarily a restaurant, affords Dale-Roberts the opportunity for maximum innovation as a chef, as well as being a space to use as ‘the creative hub’ for a variety of different projects, including regular cooking demonstrations. ‘It symbolizes a stage in a creative process,’ he explains. He chose The OldBiscuit Mill as the venue ‘because it is an aspirational area with a great community feeling’.

© Map courtesy Old Biscuit Mill
© The Test Kitchen
© The Test Kitchen
The 30-seater restaurant provides guests with the option of a casual or more formal dining experience. In the evenings, patrons can enjoy an a la carte menu offering complimentary appetizer and palette cleanser, as well as a five-course and eight-course tasting menu.

Starters such as ‘foie gras, Jerusalem artichoke and lemon chicken tree with rosemary streusel and leaves’ make a fitting introduction to the sensory adventure, with mains including dishes like ‘pan-seared duck breast, cashew nut and turnip pure, mineola and jasmine glacage, little duck salad on the side’ or ‘pan seared lamb fillets, beetroot and jagermeister jus, braised fennel, sweetbreads,macadamia and cauliflower stuffing’. Desserts such as ‘frozen banana, elderflowers in tempura batter, elderflower honey, coconut snow ball’ and ‘coffee and orange granite, praline soufflé, smoked chocolate and orange mousse, malt honeycomb’ provide a suitable finale.

© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts 
Luke has developed a vegetarian tasting menu where dishes like ‘truffle-scented poached quail egg, new season asparagus, peas, white asparagus truffles and sweet garlic custard’ will have even carnivores reaching for a taste.  Alternately, guests can sit at the more casual ‘kitchen bar’ and enjoy food ‘dish-by-dish’, straight from the open kitchen. The Test Kitchen bar menu includes dishes like ‘sake-steamed scallop with langoustine, cauliflowerstalks, yuzu, limoncello and chive cream’, or Luke’s famous ‘truffle and foie gras egg’.

© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
© The Test Kitchen Chef Luke Dale-Roberts
It’s the ideal spot to savour one of Dale-Roberts’s signature Kitchen Cocktails (think ‘aloe vera, gin, crushed berry and yuzu fizz’, or ‘mulberry, Bacardi and buttermilk’) while sharing a few plates before moving on, making space for the next wave of bar patrons who are catered for in a first-come-first served manner.

Lunches are casual, moderately priced affairs targeting local businesses, which include art galleries, advertising agencies and design stores. ‘Lunch time fare will showcase the best produce picked up at the market, simply prepared in a tasty, comforting manner,’ he says, adding that ‘as much as possible, our produce is sourced from around the local area, such as the Salt River market’. Integral to Dale-Roberts’s ethos is forming strong relationships with artisan producers and suppliers of organic produce. Luke will be working hand in hand with The Drift organic farm bringing ‘real veg’ to the table. ‘The style of food is still very much mine,’ Dale-Roberts explains, ‘but at the same time the space has to remain collaborative and creative.’ His team, which he describes as ‘young and extremely talented’, will use cooking methods that range from ‘very old to very new, and used in conjunction with one another’. This might be using sous vide or pressure-cooking together with home-curing, smoking or barbecuing. Bread will be baked by the team using a wood-fire oven connected to the original biscuit mill’s towering chimney, with the oven also converted into a cold-smoker.
 
reservations@thetestkitchen.co.za
Operating Hours
The Kitchen Lunch
Tue to Sat: 12.30pm to 2.30pm
The Test Kitchen Dinners
Wed to Sat: 7pm to 10pm
Group bookings available anytime