The unstoppable Luke Dale-Roberts triumphs for the sixth consecutive year, with Ryan Cole alongside him in the kitchen and food that’s better than ever.
While the idea of dining at The Test Kitchen might be intimidating for some, guests will be delighted to discover, however, that it’s not over-the-top nor excessively elaborate. It feels like the easiest thing in the world, and that’s what makes The Test Kitchen the best.
Entering the first ‘dark’ room, you might wonder if you’re still in the bar area, so casual and effortless it all feels. Low chairs, wood-clad walls and dim lighting all contribute to a comfortable beginning to the experience. And what an experience it is.
A map is presented as a scroll, showing the culinary journey you’re about to make, from Peru to Japan and back down to South Africa. Think ceviche with the chef’s trademark stamp and a herbaceous stinging-nettle granita that you are sure to yearn for come the height of summer; a savoury billionaire’s shortbread made with chilli, dark chocolate and duck; and baby garden veg that you grasp by their green tails and dip into a creamy ssamjang paste sprinkled with crispy onion dust. Pork scratchings are dipped into milk stout foam atop a silver tankard; slivers of buttery Wagyu biltong are speared by a cinnamon stick. These amuse-bouche bites wrap up with lamb with XO sauce, and tandoori quail on a poppapadom-like crisp. Flavours both simple and complex abound as you eat with your hands. To complete the superlative opening act, you are invited to choose from a handful of cocktails, such as a rhubarb-and-custard negroni (with a sherbetty rim) and a smoky old fashioned made with lapsang souchong.
A knock at the brass portal admits you into the ‘light’ room, which is where the magic continues. You might start on another amuse-bouche of goat’s cheese rolled in charred leek dust, before moving on to a sweet seared scallop atop ‘cauliflower and cheese’, pine nuts, capers and sweet black garlic, all paired with the best jasmine tea of your life. Alternatively, there’s the crab-and-corn risotto with a smoky tea redolent of brown rice, or a beautiful semillon.
Seasonal mushrooms steal the show, first on a tray making its way around the room to show off the pearly folds, ripples and gills of the season’s bounty. Then they’re presented in a neat bowl after being lightly touched with butter and garlic in a hot pan, with broth poured over from a cast-iron kettle. Silver trays, tagines and earthenware bowls share space in an eclectic line-up of inter-continental flavours.
Good luck choosing between the seared beef sweetbreads with asparagus, morel mushrooms, porcini Hollandaise (paired with gorgeous vanilla tea), and the pork belly with smoked chestnut, wood-roasted sweet potato, and orange dashi. (Although the aroma of the sweetbreads being seared might convince you…)
The pre-dessert is one of the standouts, with individually piped berry caviar spheres (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry), meringue shards, rhubarb-butter-poached strawberries, amasi-and-lime snow, and a quenelle of fresh dill ice cream. In the final dish, subtle floral lavender ice cream pairs beautifully with rusk, peach jellies and caramel tea.
For a parting gift of petit fours, look out for the gummy bears (earl grey, liquorice and lemongrass); billionaire's shortbreads that make another appearance, this time flavoured with ginger and cardamom; and a mind-blowing ending of a toasted turmeric marshmallow, still warm from the flames.
If you can’t drink – or even if you can – the tea pairing adds yet another layer to the almost-unthinkably layered meal. Allow smooth sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka to guide you if you’re a wine lover, but then why aren’t you having the iconic wine pairing? You will not forget – nor regret – it.
Friendly and personable (and with personality), the staff allow you to be quite laid-back as they look after your every whim.
Wooden counters, touches of copper and brass, and felts make the world of The Test Kitchen feel at once urban-industrial (appropriate, given its location) and comfortable. The open kitchen is a stage on which chefs do their intense but fluid dance, often intuiting what is needed without words.
If you’re Ubering home, you will be escorted out to the car.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.
This is food entertainment as richly layered and enjoyable as a well-written film. Luke Dale-Roberts’s constant mantra is flavour, flavour, flavour – and nothing he and his team produce will be oversalted, ill-conceived, or dull. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
After a sally of appetisers come two knockout quail dishes. First, a Peking-style breast in spectacular house hoisin with coriander, all tucked into a tiny sandwich of paper-thin pastry. The best way to eat it is in one mouthful – but it’ll leave you wanting more. Then there’s confit quail leg: perfectly tender little drumsticks served on pine needles, with burnt onion cream dolloped over pine-roasted chestnuts, for dipping purposes. It’s up to you to pick a winner. But there’s scarcely time, because next up is a smoked duck with a tasty walnut-and-date frangipane and a flourish of garlic and paprika pastes and foie-gras.
Even when classic flavour combinations are used, Luke finds a way to elevate them. A succulent scallop dish is wrapped in thin, crispy house-cured bacon and topped with crispy sage leaves – so far, so classic – but morsels of sweet black garlic with a gentle peck of capers and pine nuts add the final pinch of flavour to balance the sweet-salty picture.
While the menu shows Luke’s love of Asian flavours, the menu also gives a nod to South Africa. A curry-glazed kingklip dish pays tribute to a classic Cape Malay dish, with a beautifully creamy carrot-and-cashew purée to add a touch of refinement. There’s springbok loin too, crimson in the centre, plated on a splash of red-cabbage emulsion and a streak of almond cream. It’s hard to resist the urge to take a photograph.
Luke’s other talent is including unusual ingredients without compromising on the yum factor. If you’ve only ever known chamomile as a slightly insipid tea, then a pre-dessert scattered with the fragrant little yellow flowers will blow you away. Tiny friandises are soaked in burnt butter and laid with a creamy buttermilk quenelle on sublime gravel composed of roasted sunflower seeds and crumbs of honeycomb.
The second sweet offering highlights another fabulous but forgotten flavour: rhubarb. This dish is hot and cold, thanks to the flash-frozen blood-orange cells, scattered like confetti over the plate. It’s sharp and soft and crunchy.
Sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka presides over a clever wine list showcasing South Africa’s most downright delicious wines in two price brackets. For those considering the wine pairing, there are two options: a pull-out-all-the-stops version, and a more affordable but great-quality list. There’s also a gorgeous cocktail trolley, from which a barman will prepare you a custom cocktail. Finish with an excellent Cape port from the port trolley.
Expect confident, understated service from a professional team. Servers weigh in and assist with other tables for certain dishes, which adds a nice variety to the evening.
The restaurant has just completed a massive refurbishment. The space is now split in two by a full height, charred wood wall. On one side, a dark, moody lounge; on the other, a light, elegant, 40-seater dining space. The original tables have been reupholstered and set with white linen. Dove grey and pale blue keep things light and fresh – although the original exposed brickwork remains.
The Test Kitchen has moved to a month-to-month booking system, so instead of planning months in advance, you’ll now just need to wake up very early on the morning of the first.
Eat Out critics arrive unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Multiple Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year winnings and consecutive listings in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants has put this rising South African star on the global map.
Take a seat at the bar counter next to the open kitchen to watch the crew of chefs prepare some of the most adventurous fare in the country in front of your eyes – and shout a chorus of ayes when patron chef Luke Dale-Roberts announces every order.
The best way for a novice to taste a range of signature dishes is to take a culinary journey through one of the set discovery, gourmand or vegetarian menus, with optional wine or tea pairings. The contemporary menu transforms ingredients using cutting-edge techniques that reflect Luke’s eclectic east-meets-west culinary style. The natural flavours of seasonal fare are enhanced through adventurous combinations and imaginative interpretations of local seafood, meats and vegetables. Every dish is a visual delight, layered with aroma, colour, flavour and texture in a clean, subtle and balanced style.
Watch out for the new springbok rose – liver, chestnuts, beetroot and cocoa nib. The tastes and textures of the sea, forest and land are poached, puréed and pickled to elevate the main ingredient with piquant Asian umami (shiitake in squid-ink chawanmushi with chestnuts), wood-smoked flavours (roasted cauliflower cream fumé), frothy foams (burnt red onion) and earthy mushrooms and root vegetables.
Inspired by the quality of artisanal produce sourced from local growers, markets and suppliers, every morsel tempts with playful food combinations (salt-aged scallop with squid ink in mirin tea) and imaginative compositions (signature slow-roasted pork belly with parsley-pressed apple squares and wild-rosemary-infused honey).
Head chef Ivor Jones and his crew pay meticulous attention to every detail of the artfully plated fare on bespoke crockery, which delights the eye as well as the palate.
Cleansing your palate with a pre-dessert is like a walk in a citrus orchard infused with the fragrance of zesty oranges and lemons. No wonder Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck calls Luke “a truly fantastic chef who puts incongruent ingredients together in a way that works amazingly well”.
Expect inspired pairings with every plate. New sommelier Tinashe Nyamudoka is at hand with a Champagne chariot to advise on drinks, from cutting-edge Cape and international marques to unusual wine varieties, new blends and craft beers.
Top-notch, with smart servers in the know on the composition and ingredients that go into every dish, and ready with cool recommendations on the chef’s signature and seasonal dishes. The delivery of multiple courses of the tasting menus is well paced.
Refreshingly relaxed. The retro warehouse space draws gastro-tourists from around the world, with a buzz of excitement every time a dish arrives at a neighbouring table.
Book far ahead. You might have to wait months, but getting a table is all part of the anticipation. An insider’s tip: lunch tables are a shorter wait. Or put your name on the waiting list and be surprised by an invite to dinner one evening. Your turn will come!
Local and international food lovers alike flock to this gem, often after a month-long wait to get a table – and what an exceptional meal awaits them. It’s no surprise that this celebrated eatery by chef Luke Dale-Roberts, the very deserving third-time winner of Restaurant of the Year, is now featured on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Incorporating South African flavours and some serious Asian flair, every dish is technically precise, totally original and beautiful to look at. More importantly, every mouthful, created under the watchful eye of head chef Ivor Jones, is delicious. The grilled scallop with miso and shiitake is brimming with expertly layered, clean Asian flavours – a beautifully balanced and well thought-out delight. A creation of ‘foie gras with four trees’ charms with flavours of oak, pine, chestnut and maple. The seared springbok is an innovative dish, with a turnip milk stencil in the form of a tree and a splash of fermented red cabbage. Every course shines with its own identity and outstanding quality.
An extensive wine list with a great selection of local wines. Sommelier Wayve Kolevsohn furnishes professional service and knowledgeable recommendations.
Flawless, professional and slick, with smartly turned out staff members gliding quietly between the tables.
A perfect blend of edge and elegance. Seated in this workshop of a culinary master, you might feel like you’re in New York or Copenhagen. It’s been said before, but Luke has put Cape Town on the map.
Comments by the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards judges
“Luke is a genius chef who excites and challenges the palates of his diners through flavour, ingredients, innovation and attitude. Every year it gets better and better.” – Abigail Donnelly
“Luke’s cooking feels almost effortless, even when you know it’s anything but.” – Kate Wilson
We chose the Gourmand Menu last night.
The Wine - the pairing was off and the wines were average and I feel that there is no need to import the Van Volxem Shiefer Riesling when we have beautiful local wines.
The Food - The tasting plate at the start was very exciting and two of the 8 dishes were excellent (Pig's head and blue cheese and the "shabu shabu")
We struggled to get the bitter taste of the Kumquat and Shiso pallet cleanser out of our mouth.
I wondered if we ordered wrong? But this is not what you want to ask yourself at a restaurant like this.
The Service - Did not feel personal. We felt rushed through the courses and when I said that I felt rushed it was explained that they always rush the first four courses?
From the experience I had last night I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone.
I had the 3 course meal, was not up to the standard you should expect. I was only impressed by the snacks.
We had the pleasure to taste Luke Dale-Robert's sublime Discovery Menu. The 5 course meal blew us away, except for the fish - mushy tasteless hake, course. I definitely did not let that spoil the experience. I recommend the scallop starter, the fillet and the suckling pig is the most amazing dish on the menu. I am excited for his Pot Luck Club this weekend.
Another FANTASTIC dinner at Test Kitchen last night! Food, service, atmosphere, decor - it all adds up to being the the best in Cape Town, South Africa, and one of the best in the world. Can't wait until next time!
From the beginning to the 2.5 hour sitting end, eating here had been a pleasure and a gastronomic delight. One of the best we've ever been to. Hope they will keep up the good work and expectations. Friendly staff, great flavours.
We had lunch yesterday with starters and a main. Nice presentation and very good taste. But the portions were very small. At number 1 we expect more as in a bistro. Wooden chairs without cushions are hard. Table with metallic surface without a table cloth is ok for an outside pub. To sit next to a big table with very loud people makes it difficult to have a conversation with the partner. And last to get out hungry was not amusing.
After many attempts at co-ordinating our calendars and their availability, we finally had ate at the Test Kitchen last night. And boy was it worth the wait! Each of our choices of the 5-course paired menu was simply spectacular and clichéd as it sounds, each dish seemed to explode in a carnival of flavours. We were particularly impressed with how carefully every item on the plate was carefully selected to offer the full spectrum of sweet and sour, smooth and crunchy in one dish. We agreed that the wines chosen to accompany each course were so perfectly complementary, that to have either the 5-course or gourmand menu without the wine pairing would mean missing out on half the experience. Having raved about the food, I must add that the service was faultless. Each server was attentive, impressively efficient and the rhythm of the restaurant hummed at a slick, comfortable pace. I was so pleased when the Greenhouse deservedly won top spot last year. I’ll be surprised and disappointed if the Test Kitchen doesn’t clinch it this year.
Amazing restaurant! So tasty, not expensive and we sat right at the counter so we could watch the kitchen in action. Attentive staff and excellent food.
I just had the chance to have lunch at the counter of the Test Kitchen today and, yes, it was great and, yes, Dale-Roberts was every bit deserving of the Eat Out Best Chef honour for 2011. But the meal also spurred a conversation between my companion and me about the general state of restaurants here and why the Test Kitchen is so unique. When looking back at the past decade or so, the South African restaurant community has had something of a Napoleon complex, proclaiming a wealth of world-class restaurants -- most of which, if one is to be brutally honest, would fall short on the world stage. Not so with the Test Kitchen, which is simply amazing by any standard. One only hopes that Luke Dale-Roberts will rise to the international acclaim of the likes Thomas Keller, Dan Barber, Grant Achaz, Rene Redpezi. He is simply that good and gives me hope that other younger chefs will follow his lead.
After a 2 month wait, we finally got to experience the Test Kitchen and what a great evening. We tried the 5 course meal and wine pairing and it was succulent. Plenty of different tastes to enjoy, although my husband would have liked to see more fish dishes on the menu. Excellent service and very accommodating staff. The view of the open kitchen (surprisingly quiet) gives a good view of how the food is being prepared and creates a great atmosphere. The restaurant is worth all the good reviews for sure.
3 course set menu last night at R375. Absolutely incredible. Service brilliant. Presentation beautiful. Tastes brilliantly combined. 10 out of 10 Luke!
When I called to book a table there was a month's waiting list. So we waited...the gastronomic experience we had at Luke's Test Kitchen surpasses all else! We eat out at top 10 restaurants at least once a month and this place sure deserves its place high up on the list! The ambience is different with the open kitchen and being privy to the prep and creations of the master chef himself is enthralling. I definitely recommend that you start with a cocktail as they are sooo yummy and different. We did the 5 course wine pairing menu and every dish was phenomenal, creative, so sublime in flavours and textures. The service was charming and attentive and Luke's personal visit to our table was a nice touch and showed his true passion to his art! I have no more words other than to say - you have to go!.
Once again, amazing. My guest and I shared the 4 starters for lunch and had room to share 2 desserts and he was blown away. A difficult experience to top. I doubt we will.
Thank you, Luke and your team, for another extraordinary dining experience - all aspects were faultless (and I am fussy!). You get it right everytime!
Very, very special.
Relaxed ambience. Artistic and delicious food. Efficient service and fantastic wine list.
I had a fantastic lunch there on a Saturday afternoon. Perfect setting to give expression to the image of a "food laboratory". The tasting menu was well thought out, the tastes fantastically combined. The only thing I found lacking was the choice of the wine pairings. It was as if the wines were paired to play a very distant second fiddle to the food. The dishes definitely deserved the centre stage but I found the wine choices a little bland. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the aromas of the wines were literally blown out of the glass because we were seated right underneath the industrial strength ceiling fan as well as near an open window where the draft was quite bad.
I had an unbelievably good dinner at The Test Kitchen on Tuesday night. I had to book a fair way in back to get a table and taking into account the recent Eat Out Awards, my expectations were high.
We all opted for the 5 course Discovery Menu and sampled all of the options. It was the most interesting, creative and beautiful food that I have had in Cape Town to date. The service was very attentive, but yet unobtrusive.
The ambience was buzzing, and looking at all the activity in the new Tapas Restaurant that they have opened next door, I will definitely be trying that out very soon.
Overrated, overpriced and pretentious in an iffy location for night time visiting.
Finally got an opportunity to dine at the Test Kitchen and it was sublime. We ordered the line fish and pork belly, which were beyond compare. The presentation, depth of taste and quality of ingredients are evidence of a truly world class restaurant. Bravo Test Kitchen!
Probably one of the best meals that my foodie mate and I have ever shared - the pork belly was sublime. I still salivate a little at the thought - and the duck and fois gras parcel was a revelation. Looks like it pays to follow Luke Dale Roberts about Cape Town as he does his thing (and very well at that).
I was in two minds writing this review, as I believe that anyone can have a bad day, but decided that I just cannot keep quiet about this. Being a foodie from Johannesburg and not having the luxury of dining in some of South Africa’s finest restaurants I was very excited to try out The Test Kitchen as I’ve heard only good things about it. I must say that I was somewhat disappointed…
I was shown to my table for one right by the open kitchen, a great treat for anyone who enjoys watching chefs at work. In the ten minutes that I waited for some acknowledgment I had the benefit of eyeing out all the dishes coming out of the kitchen, making my decision somehow difficult as everything looked good.
I decided to go for the tuna tataki starter and the duck crepe main.
The tuna came beautifully presented but when tasted was rather bland. The dressing did not have enough flavour nor did the green vegetable accompaniments. The only really delicious thing on the plate was the grilled aubergine but unfortunately there were only four tiny pieces of it which didn’t go far even when delicately dissected in half. I’m sure that with a little more umami flavour the dish would have been great.
I was willing to forgive the chefs for the first dish just by the way my duck main looked. From my seat I could see how the chef delicately pulled the soft duck breast meat off the bone and placed it in a crepe together with the tiny diced vegetables and hoisin sauce and gently rolled it all together to form a delicious looking dish.
To my utter disappointment I was presented with a rather boring folded crepe with nothing inside, a tiny over cooked and dry duck leg on the bone next to it, some scattered diced veggies and a small ‘salad’. When I asked the waitress for the reason I did not receive the dish as I witnessed it coming out of the kitchen by the numbers, she replied that the chef decided to experiment.
Experiment? Why experiment with the last dish to come out of the kitchen? If you ask me the chef got lazy and thought he had nothing to lose on a table for one. How about future business and a bad write up?
I decided to give up on dessert as the kitchen staff had started packing up the kitchen and I didn’t want to be experimented on again.
A disappointing meal for one at R280 excluding dessert left me rather angry… and hungry.
Last night we enjoyed another spectacular dinner at TTK. A friend wanted to surprise his wife on her birthday by flying down and surprising her at a restaurant in Cape Town. I knew it had to be the Test Kitchen. Not only were the staff perfect in facilitating the surprise, they went on to ensure a perfect evening with their friendly, knowledgeable and proud service. It's such a pleasure to eat the best food in a restaurant with such an amazing atmosphere of camaraderie and buzz, without being snooty.
The food however was the highlight. Luke you have outdone yourself. Every morsel was a mouthful of heaven. And our friends (who eat out regularly in Johannesburg) kept saying that they have never experienced a meal such as this one ever in their lives. They were completely overwhelmed with the level of care in each dish, the combination of flavours and the special care you took of our table. And each plate was literally licked clean.
It was a mind-blowing experience and if this is coming across all gushing – it’s meant to! This restaurant is right up there with the best in the world and we are holding all our fingers and toes for a superb result at the Eat Out Awards this year. Needless to say, we will be back, and again, thank you from all of us.
Absolutely the best dining experience in my life! Luke and his staff are artists and it's evident they are passionate about what they do!
Sublime and inspired cooking. Always a treat to come to this restaurant and an excellent way to celebrate. Multiple amuse bouche and sorbets make it a 7 course meal. Delicious sweet potato and brussel sprouts with Parmesan creme Catalan to start. Incredibly tender springbok loin for mains and the best dessert, a pine nut parfait. If in Cape Town do yourself a favour and go to the Test Kitchen!
Without doubt one of Cape Town's finest dining spots. Wonderful flavour combinations, coupled with competent staff - not to mention a well-priced wine list. Make The Test Kitchen a must for everyone looking to spoil your taste buds.