Luke Dale-Roberts dishes up English pub food at Ye Olde Test Kitchen
You certainly don't want to miss the pub lunch at Cape Town's most famous fine-dining restaurant, writes Kit Heathcock
The Test Kitchen isn’t the first place you’d think of if you fancy a really good plate of fish and chips. But for the next month, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunchtimes, you’ll find South Africa’s best known fine-dining restaurant channelling a bustling English pub vibe.
Ye Olde Test Kitchen is a pop-up concept that popped into Luke Dale-Roberts’ head when he started revisiting old pub classics from his youth in the British countryside. “I thought why not go all in and just do it,” he says.
So lunch whole-hearted pub style it is. A short à la carte menu of rib-sticking, artery-stopping, old-fashioned classics. The food you’d hope to find in an old-school English pub, done to Test Kitchen standards.
It's the food you’d hope to find in an old-school English pub, done to Test Kitchen standards
When we visited, the open kitchen was in full throttle, a team of fifteen doing prep for that night’s fine-dining service, while a dedicated team of five delivers the pub lunch.
Heraldic bunting hints at nostalgic pub flavour, the bare brick walls play along with the theme, and brown paper tablecloths dial down the decor to gastro-pub simplicity.
The menu offers a choice of four starters and five mains with not a frill, garnish or palate cleanser in sight.
We went for a rich and delicious terrine, layering duck and date pâté with chicken liver parfait and pistachios, to slather on sourdough toast, with a simply dressed green salad.
Soup of the day was a sumptuous kedgeree soup, made with snoek instead of haddock and lashings of cream and gentle spice.
We had to find out what fish and chips looked like under Test Kitchen conditions and were rewarded with gloriously fresh hake, chunky crispy chips and two thick sauces to dunk into.
The rabbit and ham suet pudding also intrigued – so old-school I don’t remember ever eating it before – a thin suet crust, the rabbit and ham filling delicate and succulent, a velouté of tarragon and mustard, and some whole butter lettuce leaves to balance it out.
Delicious enough that even as I eyed up the next table’s beef Wellington and lamb shanks I didn’t regret my choice.
Service is attentive and fast-paced, geared to pub lunch timing and customers who only have an hour for lunch, and they keep a few tables available for walk-ins.
We didn’t need dessert but there was no way I was leaving without trying the sticky toffee pudding. And it was worth it, gorgeously decadent, full-on toffee caramel depth with vanilla ice cream.
If you go for all three courses be prepared to leave inelegantly stuffed!
•Ye Olde Test Kitchen is open for lunch Wednesday to Friday until October 25 2019. Bookings for the light room can be made online. There is limited seating for walk-in guests in the dark room.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za