For now, you don’t need a plane ticket to Cape Town to experience The Test Kitchen. What started as a pop-up will soon become a permanent fixture from May as the restaurant has now opened at The Saxon Hotel in Sandhurst.
As with the original Test Kitchen you can expect Luke Dale Robert’s unique flair for culinary creativity and experimentation. He’s woven everything into a multicourse tasting menu of dishes like sea bass ceviche, wagyu beef carpaccio, pan-seared duck breast, and fennel, lime and coconut sorbet. Although each dish is radically different, each one uses a unique combination of flavours, which is part of what makes the whole experience so memorable.
The menu items are carefully matched with an exceptional wine selection (we tried the local option but you can also pair with international wines). On the night we visited the restaurant was, of course, packed – it’s fully booked until the end of its pop-up run, prompting a decision to make it a permanent arrangement – but the obvious attention to detail with everything, including the service and ambience, made us feel like we were the only ones there. We spoke to Luke to find out more.
How did you decide on using the pop-up concept?
George Cohen (Saxon general manager) approached me with the idea when his chef, David Higgs, resigned. I really liked David’s Five Hundred restaurant, and there was great infrastructure in place – including a great team. I always wanted to do something in Joburg, but to start something from scratch is difficult, so an existing set-up made it a lot easier.
How is the menu different from Cape Town, if at all?
Our first iteration of the menu was a compilation of Test Kitchen classics, but as it’s gone on I’ve taken off some dishes and replaced others, so it’s gradually becoming a menu unto itself. I’m also now influenced by the planting schedules from the Saxon’s own vegetable garden.
What’s the overall menu theme?
It’s modern cooking with an innovative edge, done stylishly using classic fine French bone china. This helps put it into context with the “white tablecloth” atmosphere of the Saxon.
Are you enjoying it?
I thrive on novelty, so although it’s tiring, I’m enjoying the change of scenery. And, when I’m in Joburg, I can simply focus on creating good food – I’m not distracted by running my Cape Town restaurants.
Luke Dale Roberts X the Saxon
011 292 6000
Words: Catherine Black