I don’t often cover pop-ups. It’s not that I regard them as any less worthy than an established restaurant but it’s just that they are around for only a limited time. The Test Kitchen, although a pop-up, will be around for a while and it’s the prequel to a hopefully enduring restaurant in 2018.
The chef already has outstanding credentials, having honed his culinary craft at the likes of Le Gavroche, The Halkin under Gualteiro Marchesi and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. Adam Simmonds has been looking for a rather different format of dining experience where he could have face-to-face interaction with the diner. The Test Kitchen provides just such a platform where the guests are encouraged to ask questions and even offer suggestions via a feedback form. And, yes, some of those suggestions have been heeded. I think a few other restaurants could take advantage of such forms! It’s part of the development process and one does feel rather more involved and inspired.
It’s a small space, a couple of dozen covers with bar seating and an open kitchen. It was an evening of gastronomic theatre, with food and wine being the evident stars. Those young and bustling chefs produced some of the most innovative and beautiful dishes to be had in this capital. The ingredients were seasonal and fresh and served with flair.
High-end comfort food
We started with sourdough bread and a pat of homemade salted butter and then we each chose 3 dishes from the menu divided into vegetables, fish and meat. These are small dishes but each is thoughtfully constructed. I ordered broad beans, girolle mushrooms in an onion and pine broth. That’s where the bread came into play. I know dipping isn’t polite but it seemed more genteel than licking the plate! Roasted pearl barley, salt-baked celeriac and truffle was my guest’s veggie plate. The truffle was aromatically evident, with great creamy texture from the grain. This is high-end comfort food.
We continued with fish dishes and they didn’t disappoint. My smoked eel, Granny Smith apple, veal and parsley was light and flavoursome. My guest’s plate was somewhat larger but equally well constructed. Cod, girolles, broad beans and summer flowers created a plate which was pronounced first class. The fish was just cooked and melting. A pleasure to eat.
I don’t, I confess, love all things offally but veal sweetbreads are a favourite. They were cooked to creamy perfection and I hope Adam will consider keeping them on any future menus. There is nothing to challenge the diner with this dish …well, except their imaginations – most people seem to think sweetbreads are dangly-bits, but in fact they are thymus glands. The sweetbreads were garnished with lardo, girolles, peas and lemon, which was a predominant flavour giving freshness to the rich sweetbreads. 80 day-aged sirloin of beef, bone marrow, date, white onion was my guest’s meaty choice. This was unsurprisingly succulent beef with that marrow as a savoury accomplice. The extra aging allows the meat to reach its full potential and it has a rewarding impact on both taste and texture.
Lemon Posset, avocado, gooseberries, with shards of crisp yoghurt meringue was my companion’s dessert. This was visually architectural and tangy from the fruit. Matcha tea custard with poached English cherries in red wine syrup was my finale and it had the delicate flavour of Japanese tea laced with the more robust British stone fruit. Recommended!
The Test Kitchen no longer needs to test. Adam Simmonds, this skilled chef with the engaging smile, deserves to be proud of both the concept and the execution at The Test Kitchen. His team have an audience but it is, for the most part, an appreciative one. I can’t wait to taste Adam’s future menus. He has already set himself a creditably high bar.
Monday – Closed
Tuesday to Friday: 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Saturday: 12noon to 2.30pm for lunch
5.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Sunday – Closed
The Test Kitchen
54 Frith Street
Phone: +44 (0)20 7734 8487
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018