The Test Kitchen

There. I knew I’d get a better shot of Table Mountain than that first one from our hotel. This one was taken from Robben Island.

San Francisco has Alcatraz, Cape Town has Robben Island. To my knowledge (skimpy at best) Alcatraz never held political prisoners, nor were rations determined by race, and therein lies the difference. This was the place where Nelson Mandela and thousands of other other anti-apartheid activists were sent to serve out punishingly long sentences for left trivial acts. For instance our guide on the island was rounded up in a student protest and sentenced to fifteen years. The criminal class were also sent there but housed separately. With the end of apartheid Robben Island is no longer a prison, only a tourist destination. On the trip over we saw hundreds of seals and dolphins. I learned in Newfoundland that while whale sitings etc. are exciting to watch, they are difficult to photograph and today’s efforts confirmed this. The island itself is not particularly photogenic and the prison buildings themselves having been built quickly in the 1960’s are unremarkable. With much reverence Mandela’s cell was pointed out and we each shuffled by this tiny room that was his home for I think 23 years.

The foodies in our group (me included) started to get excited about the next item on the agenda, lunch at one of Cape Town’s top rated restaurants called The Test Kitchen. I think it was Laurel that found this one (we love you Laurel!) on the internet and we were able to coordinate a reservation for 20 for lunch. The five course lunch with wine pairing was 695 Rand about $70.00. It was (IMHO) a spectacular meal. I would like to describe all five courses but will take a few shortcuts with photos.

The restaurant itself was open kitchen and when we arrived shortly after 1:00, every chair save ours was occupied. Jason, our waiter, was relaxed, friendly and cheerful. Recently he placed fifth in SA’s version of Top Chef, but no one asked him the question. (What’s he doing waiting tables with that kind of cred?).

First course was ‘Homedried Tomato’.

The dark little cubes were burnt aubergine jelly which had a wonderful burst of flavour, as did all the other little bits, which Jason described in some detail, all of which now escape me.
Next came a choice of either a fish ceviche or grilled scallop. The scallop eaters all agreed that it was probably the tastiest scallop ever (and no, Brian Brown, who frequently claims each meal to be the best meal ever was not sitting at our table of 8). My photos of this course did not work out, but the plating was terrific.

Then came either Pork Belly or Veal Sweetbreads. Bridgette and I opted for the sweetbreads.

Of special note is the little white puddle in the middle, which Jason advised to be a chicken and sherry glacage (pronounced with a soft c). We felt very sophisticated, and chided the waiter that they missed the cedilla on the c on the menu). I’m trying to figure out how I could work a glacage into our breakfast menu.

Anyway, the next decision was between the ‘line fish’, in this case kingklip and duck leg confit. The kingklip came with something called a snook medley. See if you can pick it out.

We couldn’t either, but it tasted really good.

Then dessert. Julie chose the ‘Almonds, Tea and Nectaines’ which consisted of: caramelized almond tart, lapsang souchong jelly, nectarine sorbet, white chocolate cremeux (mon dieu!, they included the accent on the e which I cannot) and toasted almond panna cotta. I went for the South African cheeses. You’ll have to decide who won, because we are still arguing about it.

Now, I did mention that we went with the wine pairing? The glass in Julie’s hand is the fifth one she has held at lunch. These were not the tasting portions we are used to seeing at home.

Feeling absolutely no pain, we found our way back to the bus sometime around 3:30 I think and headed to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, not far out of Cape Town. This property was donated to the state by Cecil Rhodes and while perhaps not quite as well manicured as Butchart Gardens it was as large if not larger and a wonderful place to spend some time at the end of our day. The late afternoon sun accentuated the colours and with the ‘other side’ of table mountain as a backdrop, not to mention all the exotic shrubs, trees and flowers we drank in the beauty and serenity.

After such a wonderful lunch and such a serene time in the gardens no one felt much like eating again and I’m pretty sure everyone hit the pillow early with the glow of yet another wonderful day upon us.

Location: Cape Town

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 at 1:43 pm and is filed under South Africa 2014. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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