They say food is memory. And I would be doing South Africa such an injustice if I didn’t document the absolutely fantastic meals we had, at great value too. We were fortunate enough to secure a lunch booking at The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, recently awarded the 26th position in San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants list! It does help that the entire reservation system is now done online.
Quite apart from the flavour pairings, the ingredients themselves were foreign to us – linefish (kingklip for the day), veal sweetmeats, springbok all featured on the generous lunch menu. We also opted to add the day’s specials, making our meal 6 courses with matching wine pairings.
We began with a fragrant onion brioche as part of the bread selection – I love chewy, tasty surprises in my breads. Then came a fish mousse with cheese dust and fish crackers, very much a refined ‘Super Ring’ snack. Asian influence on South African cuisine was most evident in the next few courses – tuna tataki with kimchi and beans and a quail cracker done peking duck style. All very tasty, if a little heavy on the salt.
Then came scallops with cauliflower puree, and cauliflower foam, a classic combination made exciting with the addition of black garlic (I love!). The accompanying caper and pine nut salsa added a surprising zing and contrast to what might have otherwise been a rather heavy dish. Next, the veal sweetbreads smoked in a pot, wrapped in bacon – most decadent and with a moorish, creamy texture.
For mains – a perfectly seared kingklip glazed with curry, carrot and cashew puree and some deep fried carrots to add crunch. I think carrots are a most versatile vegetable, and the addition of the cashew nuts made it really nutty and buttery – clever to have all that flavour without the divergent crunch of the raw ingredients themselves that would have otherwise clashed with the fish. All set off nicely with a dry Lammershoek Chenin Blanc 2013. This was followed by a springbok loin, rich in gamey flavour and intensified with red cabbage puree and emulsion. Almost like eating the hunt, with the addition of pine oil and almond cream. Delicious.
Dessert, though, was the absolute highlight – “sunflower seeds” was a dream pairing of silky smooth chamomile ice cream and pops of honeycomb atop a bed of sunflower seeds toasted in brown butter. All at once intense yet light, with such clarity of flavour – I could have bowls of this. But restraint makes for fonder memories.
Overall, the food was suitably rich, as I have found that South African cuisine is wont to be. Yet interesting flavour pairings highlighting beautiful local produce, executed more than satisfactorily, is what you will get from a meal at TTK. The vibe is rather casual as well, though the waitstaffs’ leather aprons definitely made me do a double take. Despite eating a good amount at the nearby Neighbourgoods Market, we were more than happy to find additional space in our tummies for a thoroughly lovely meal.
The Test Kitchen
The Old Biscuit Mill
375 Albert Road
Woodstock, Cape Town
Tel: +27 21 447 2337