When Kitchen Table first opened in 2012, everyone flocked. Bubbledogs, the front-facing side of the restaurant, was incredibly popular anyway; co-owner Sandia Chang sources rare, specialist Champagnes to be served with gourmet hot dogs. It might sound like a nutty juxtaposition, but don't tell me you don't like hot dogs. Don't tell me you don't like fizz. Go on, put 'em together. There!
So when James Knappett, the chef there, announced that he was opening Kitchen Table, a 19-seater horse shoe shape around the edge of the kitchen out back within which the chefs prepare incredibly high-spec food, well - the phone lines jammed. He has an impressive pedigree - out abroad, he did time at Noma in Copenhagen and Per Se in New York, and on our home shores, he worked at Marcus Wareing's The Berkeley and The Ledbury. He is not a stranger to our fat jolly tyre specialist, and in fact was awarded one in 2014.
I took my time with this one. Almost three years from opening, we booked for dinner. Out front, ramshackle and noisy. Push past this, beyond the leather curtains and it is an oasis of calm. The Kitchen Table operates two sittings, one at 6pm and another around 8pm - half of the seats sit down for each, so as to keep control in the kitchen. There are no turning tables here - with a solid 14, if not more, courses, you're in it for the long haul. The main ingredients are chalked up on a blackboard - 'scallop', followed by 'prawn', and perhaps 'beef', for example. Each course is preceded by a spoken explanation, a short description of what accompanies that ingredient, or how it is cooked. The menu comprises of British, seasonal ingredients which is devised each day, so no two sittings may ever be the same.
Sure, famous, 'signature' dishes like this pressed chicken skin topped with mascarpone and bacon jam feature almost all of the time, and it's easy to see why - purest chicken flavour compressed into an impressive crisp, sweet yet savoury and creamy all at once. I also enjoyed the potato wafer (opening pic) made using potato water, and dabbed with sour cream, cubes of smoked salmon on top. It had a strong potato flavour which I had no idea you could get from dehydrating its water.
We're readying ourselves for 16 courses, here, so I won't give a blow-by-blow account of everything we ate, especially since it's not likely to be repeated. However, the sweet, delicate little raw prawns with seaweed and dill deserve a mention for the complex flavours brought out on such a seemingly simple plate.
Blowtorches in full force, Knappett meticulously scorches the skin of brill, rendering the flesh pearly and delicate, the skin crisp. Mustard leaf is a worthy accompaniment here, adding a bit of heat to the otherwise slightly dull turnip and daikon.
I couldn't miss out talking about the potato foam with a 63 degree, slow-cooked egg nestling within, which came absolutely covered in heady, fresh truffle. That green oil there was made from wild garlic. Outstanding stuff, and proof indeed that one doesn't always need a lump of fish or meat to make a quality dish.
...I mean, you CAN though so why not? After lamb sweetbreads that were golden and caramelised on the outside, served with a curried yoghurt with carrots, the grill next to us was fired up for the beef. Aged sirloin, seared, with brown sauce - a really, really posh HP - and topped with crumbs. My god, this was good. That beef fat, all yellow and creamy, was the very embodiment of beef. We were dismayed later on to see that other diners on the later sitting hadn't finished theirs. They were denied the beef broth, deemed too full and more the fool them, as the beef broth was clear and comforting, deep and flavoursome. It felt nostalgic, it reminded me of Taiwanese beef brisket soup, with a slight hint of anise scenting the nostrils. A bundle of seaweed in the middle gave it texture and an additional savoury oompf.
Sweets were, I felt, slightly less inventive. A flop of pannacotta on top of a rhubarb compote was tasty enough, but lacked fireworks for me.
The caramel dessert brought me back into the room. An ice cream, a mousse and a marshmallow, with cocoa crumbs underneath was very pleasing, texturally and I couldn't help but hoover it all up. Next, we had to make a group decision - banana or liquorice? - probably two of my least favourite flavours. Really, if someone manufactured banana-flavoured sambuca I'd cry, but actually, the frozen chocolate covered cylinder of banana was really very good. It was refreshing and surprising, all at once.
We finished the night off with a sharp-edged cube of fudge, topped with sea salt, and house-made damson gin, while we chatted to the chefs. I felt incredibly satisfied by the end of the meal; almost all the dishes blew me away. Out of 16 courses there was bound to be a couple I felt were weaker, which I did with the desserts, but perhaps it has something to do with my extreme prejudice towards savoury food.
It's not cheap, and that could go some way to explaining why I took my sweet time getting there. It's £98 per head before you've even looked at the wine list. It's definitely (for me) a special occasion kind of place, and I couldn't recommend it for that enough. It's not the place to come for a big girls night out, or a raucous catch-up - the focus is the food, and you'll want to be focussing on it. Intently.
70 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4QG
So I basically did describe the courses but for more pretty pictures look HERE.