News / Opinion / Columns

Adriaan Roets
3 minute read
30 Jun 2018
9:00 am

The Test Kitchen projects African nosh onto the world map

Adriaan Roets

Luke Dale Roberts’ The Test Kitchen placed at number 50 at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards – one of the globe’s biggest awards celebrating culinary destinations.

The Test Kitchen's staff celebrate their recognition. Picture: Supplied

South African chefs and restaurants have shown their staying power on the global stage.

This week alone, Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient earned a 2018 Grand Award from the highly-acclaimed US publication Wine Spectator for its wine list and cellar.

It joins 85 restaurants around the world that have earned Wine Spectator awards for their wine lists.

This shortly after Luke Dale Roberts’ The Test Kitchen placed at number 50 at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards – one of the globe’s biggest awards celebrating culinary destinations.

Apart from being recognised as the 50th best restaurant in the world according to awards, The Test Kitchen was named the best in Africa.

Last year Dale Roberts took a gamble to completely re-imagine the restaurant, resulting in the dramatic Dark Room and Light Room concept where diners start the evening in the moody, lounge-style Dark Room for tapas and cocktails, before moving to the Light Room which functions as a more formal setting to complete the 21-course tasting menu – something that contributed to the restaurant clinching a spot on the Top 50 list.

“My team and I worked extremely hard to evolve The Test Kitchen to what it is today.

“It’s thrilling that it has paid off,” says Roberts.

AFRICA’S BEST. Luke Dale Roberts. Picture: Supplied

This year Dale Roberts pushed boundaries when he introduced The Drought Kitchen by The Test Kitchen, in response to the drought in Cape Town.

Head Chef Ryan Cole explains: “When day zero was approaching we wondered if we would have to close, or would have to retrench people. We started to brainstorm on every way we could go waterless.”

This six-course reduced-water dining experience ran from April to June, where Dale Roberts and Cole focused their energy on an innovative approach to the local restaurant scene which, while still delivering exceptional gourmet fare, also employed concepts like reusing water from air-conditioning (something they are continuing) and re-evaluating ingredients.

“It’s been an eye-opener, for sure. I’ve been made acutely aware that we need to use less water in our personal and professional lives.

“The real challenge with our The Drought Kitchen concept is how to maintain the top standards of our restaurants and at the same time make a definitive impact in our use of this natural resource,” Dale Roberts adds.

If you follow food culture in South Africa, you’d know The Test Kitchen regularly features as one of the best restaurants, and is one of Cape Town’s must-do attractions.

That sort of notoriety means that Dale Roberts can dabble around the world – like this year when he opened a pop-up restaurant in Mauritius.

The Test Kitchen Mauritius at Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort and Spa ran for six weeks from April to May, presenting a refined food-style adding exotic Mauritian spices and ingredients to a special menu.

Cole and Dale Roberts actually visited Mauritian markets for inspiration while formulating the menu.

“The Test Kitchen is all about discovery, whether that is flavour, food, ingredients or cooking techniques,” says Dale Roberts. Combining that fervour with Cole resulted in a menu where unfamiliar ingredients were combined into the The Test Kitchen wheelhouse of cooking.

The Test Kitchen Mauritius presented a tapas menu and two different five-course tasting menus to echo The Test Kitchen in Cape Town’s Dark Room and Light Room spaces.

Guests started their evening at the Republik Bar area to enjoy the tapas menu with cocktails. Then they continued their journey at the beachfront restaurant, for a five-course tasting menu.

Many of the staff members from The Test Kitchen who travelled to Mauritius had never before been on a plane, never mind travelled to one of Africa’s most luxurious destinations.

Maybe that’s the real reason behind the success – keeping The Test Kitchen family close.

  • The Test Kitchen is located at Shop 105a, The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town. Dinner only from Tuesdays to Saturdays between 6.30pm and 11.30pm.

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