Cape Town's world-famous Test Kitchen to close permanently
Chef Luke Dale Roberts's multiple-award-winning restaurant will shut its doors at the end of September, writes Steve Steinfeld
The Test Kitchen will close its doors forever at the end of September.
For the best part of 11 years, the iconic Cape Town restaurant has consistently ranked among the world’s finest eateries. It's won a plethora of local and international awards.
Indeed the culinary landmark has been instrumental in securing the Mother City — and Mzansi — a spot on the global foodie map.
Chef patron Luke Dale Roberts said on Thursday that the decision was a sad one, but that he would embark on exploring exciting new projects.
With the global uncertainty around Covid, it has become very difficult to sustain a restaurant of this kind and maintain everything that I believe in.Luke Dale Roberts, chef patron of The Test Kitchen
“I felt it was the right time [to close The Test Kitchen],” Dale Roberts said. “The food we are producing is some of the best since we opened, and I am immensely proud of that.
“I believe that creativity comes in cycles, and I feel like I have come to the end of this creative cycle,” he added.
“With the current global uncertainty around Covid, it has become very difficult to sustain a restaurant of this kind and maintain everything that I believe in.”
Through each of its iterations, The Test Kitchen raised the bar for world-class restaurants. It brought Dale Roberts’s bold flavours to the fore, merging his classical training with his love of Asian cuisine and a keen eye for detail.
When it introduced its immersive dark-room/light-room concept, which saw diners progress from one unique space to another as they enjoyed a multi-course tasting menu, it offered a dining experience that remains unrivalled in the country.
It’s almost impossible to pick a favourite dish when the level of excellence was so consistently impeccable.
One standout, though, was my first taste of sweetbreads. Coated with a chicken-and-sherry glaze and served with a touch of almond milk, almond falafel and celeriac crisps, they were truly a revelation.
The signature billionaire shortbread was another. An ingeniously savoury twist on the famed sweet, it featured a porcini base with a foie gras parfait.
As Covid-19 hit, and the government introduced lockdown-mandated restrictions on restaurants, The Test Kitchen took to creating gourmet hampers as an upmarket solution to the need for eateries to provide takeaways to survive.
As restrictions eased, it rebranded as The Test Kitchen Origins, offering a pared-down approach to fine dining.
The Test Kitchen’s closure is a monumental loss for an industry already hard-hit by the pandemic but it's legacy is assured: many chefs fortunate enough to have been mentored by Dale Roberts have gone on to open fine institutions themselves, locally and abroad.
While there’s no word on Dale Roberts's new projects yet, he has devoted himself to another of his acclaimed eateries, The Pot Luck Club, and his recently launched social upliftment project, Test Kitchen Fledglings, which he runs with his wife Sandalene.
• Reservations for The Test Kitchen for the remainder of July and August can be made online at thetestkitchen.co.za or by calling 021-447-2337 during office hours. Bookings for September will open at the beginning of the month.