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Review: The Test Kitchen Carbon brings exceptional dining to Jozi

The Test Kitchen needs no introduction and Joburg has delighted in welcoming the new Test Kitchen Carbon.

Fast facts:

Restaurant name: Test Kitchen Carbon

Address: 199 Oxford Road, Oxford Parks

Phone number: 011 745 3999

Opening times: Lunch: Thursday – Saturday, 12pm – 13.30pm; Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday, 6pm – 8pm

Average price of a main course: R950 for the lunch tasting menu and R1,900 for the dinner tasting menu

Corkage fee: No corkage allowed

Parking situation: Underground parking in the Oxford Parks Shopping Centre

Food type: Fine-dining

Best for: Romantic evenings or special occasions

The Food

This is no carbon copy of The Test Kitchen of old, but rather a reincarnation of the restaurant concept in a new space, with a new menu and Chef Tyron Gentry (protégé to Luke Dale Roberts) at the helm. But the Dale Roberts signature of “flavour, and layers of flavour” certainly pervades. 

Their menu is a showcase of exceptional culinary skill and tantalising flavour combinations. Standouts include the Japanese gazpacho with crème fraiche sorbet, salmon and miso floss with tempura shiso – a mouthful to say and heaven to eat. It offers a taste of the ocean with delectable umami undertones.  The paella-style risotto with crayfish, lemon and calamari oil is a rich and seductive little number that evokes a “close your eyes and savour the moment” response to every mouthful, and the springbok with chicken liver parfait with fig jus bends beautifully between earthy tones of sweet and savoury.

Test Kitchen Carbon dish

For dessert, the clever combination of chocolate, mascarpone and smoked white chocolate ice cream or the upside-down lemon tart with purple shiso sorbet make for a wonderfully playful finish.

Drinks

There is the option of either a local/international wine pairing or a tea pairing with both the lunch and dinner tasting menus and, while they do not disappoint, it does crank up the cost of the experience a few notches. The wine list in itself is exceptional and special mention must be made to Simba, their in-house sommelier, for his passion and generosity of spirit in finding the perfect pairing for your palate. You can also look forward to a selection of superb cocktails. 

Service

11/10 for enthusiasm – the team here really aims to please. They’re not quite gliding through the space or working together as a well-oiled machine as yet, but this will come.

Test Kitchen Carbon service

Ambience

This is where the Test Kitchen Carbon pays tribute to its predecessor. The space is intimate and handsomely decorated in dark tones, beautiful woods and natural textures. Everything centres around the open-plan kitchen with a third of the seating positioned at the bar for those who enjoy watching chef mastery in action. 

But this is where there is a slight disconnect. The location of the restaurant within the centre is strange: in front of an escalator and next to one of the centre’s service entrances. But there is no service entrance for the kitchen so deliveries are brought through the front and the interruption to the flow of service isn’t very pleasant. There are also no bathroom facilities inside – you need to exit the restaurant and walk down the service entrance where you’ll find only two toilets: one for men and one for women. Queuing for a bathroom in astringent white lighting takes you out of the opulent fantasy they’ve worked so hard to create, and while it’s a small detail, when you’re paying a hefty price per head you expect such things to be addressed.

Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here

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