Travelife Magazine made it first to Test Kitchen, Africa’s best restaurant, in Cape Town
In November 2012, the Travel Companion and I went to South Africa for the first time — a truly amazing and enjoyable trip of great hotels, fantastic restaurants and memorable experiences.
He was in charge of choosing most of the restaurants, and one of the places he chose was Test Kitchen, a newly-opened restaurant in a pretty industrial part of Cape Town, with an ambitious young chef who previously headed La Colombe, one of the Cape Town’s most venerable dining institutions.
That’s one our courses at La Colombe
Incidentally, we ate at La Colombe as well, on our last full day in South Africa, and we loved it as well.
UNDER THE RADAR.
BUT NOT OUR RADAR.
It wasn’t that difficult to get a reservation back then, although Test Kitchen was packed on the night we ate there.
And I remember we had the 11-course tasting menu and shared one accompanying wine pairing as neither of us is much of a tippler.
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We had a wonderful time on that trip to South Africa, and that inspired us to explore other places in Africa afterwards.
I’m reprinting below my blog entry about that dinner, as Test Kitchen has just been chosen as the best restaurant in Africa by S. Pellegrino.
IS ALWAYS AHEAD OF THE PACK
Travelife Magazine was there ahead of almost everyone else, and almost certainly ahead of anyone else in Asia.
Test Kitchen was off the radar but the Travel Companion made a very good call. We also wrote a very lengthy article about our dinner here for Travelife Magazine — perhaps the very first publication in Asia to feature Test Kitchen in a major way.
When we ate there, we just knew it would make records.
That’s me with the Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca. Jordi Roca (left) was just named the world’s best pastry chef. They’re holding a copy of the issue of Travelife Magazine, where Jerome Velasco’s very detailed article on El Celler de Can Roca appeared. Ahead of everyone else in Asia, of course. If not in the world.
Travelife Magazine was also the first to write lengthily about El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, just days after it became the world’s best restaurant last year.
We even paid a return visit, wherein I personally handed a copy of our article (and magazine) to the Roca brothers. Jordi Roca was just named the world’s best pastry chef for 2014, by the way.
THE BEST HOTEL IN THE WORLD
My beautiful Elton John suite at La Residence in Franschhoek
By the way, La Residence in Franschhoek, a hotel I chose for us to stay in on this same trip to South Africa, was pretty much off the radar of most people except serious hotel junkies.
We stayed here for a weekend, prior to moving on to Cape Town, and I loved it from the moment I set foot in it. The Travel Companion can attest to that.
A few months ago, La Residence was chosen as the best hotel in the world for 2013.
So between his passion for restaurants and my passion for hotels, we were a pretty good team for picking the best of the best in South Africa.
A reprint of my blog entry on Test Kitchen in Cape Town
Recently chosen the best restaurant in Africa
We ate there when it first opened in November 2012
Test Kitchen is located in a somewhat industrial district of Cape Town
Tonight in Cape Town, living a TRAVELIFE, the Travel Companion took me out to dinner at a cutting-edge new restaurant he’d been hankering to try in South Africa.
It’s run by South Africa’s most famous chef and restaurant reservations are extremely difficult to come by.
But he had made the reservations about two or three months ago, and that was how we got the best table in the house on a Saturday night in the best restaurant in Cape Town.
The bread and the menu at Test Kitchen
The evening started out very nicely with champagne — yes, more champagne.
We met up very briefly with a couple living in Cape Town, in the lovely gardens of the iconic Mount Nelson Hotel right in the center of the city.
Test Kitchen is very casual in vibe, and their wines are all young and stored in cabinets on top
A 15-MINUTE TIME FRAME
As usual, we were terribly pressed for time, so we could only sit with them for about 30 minutes before heading out to dinner.
Throughout this trip, we’ve been meeting people we know in South Africa for about 15 minutes to 30 minutes each, as we seem to have no time at all on this trip.
The beautiful Mount Nelson Hotel. Perhaps South Africa’s most famous hotel institution.
We met someone for 15 minutes in Joburg, and another person for about 20 minutes in Franschhoek, which is about an hour from Cape Town.
This time, though, having drinks with this couple in Cape Town, it was a big shame as the Travel Companion and I both liked them and had a very animated time discussing travel and experiences in different countries.
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FEATURED THE BEST OF SOUTH AFRICA WAY AHEAD OF EVERYON ELSE
in our 2013 issues and in our blog
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At just before 7, The Travel Companion began signaling me that it was time to go.
The restaurant we were headed for is in a new trendy commercial/ warehouse district about 20 minutes away from the Mount Nelson, and he was afraid that we were going to lose our reservation if we appeared late.
Otherwise, we would have stayed on talking into the night with champagne and all.
Test Kitchen is under pressure to make it fast as a top restaurant locally and internationally. It’s owner-chef used to run La Colombe,
South Africa’s most famous restaurant, until he broke off and decided to go on his own.
We’re eating at La Colombe tomorrow, by the way.
So after hurried goodbyes, we jumped into a taxi and headed across town to this hot new restaurant called Test Kitchen and it’s run by Luke Dale Roberts, arguably South Africa’s most famous chef.
We made it in time and we got the best table, which was a table for two right by the kitchen.
The Travel Companion was really excited, and I was quite excited too, since he’d told me about it and talked up the merits of the chef.
THREE CHOICES FOR DINNER
There are only three course choices at Test Kitchen: a three-course meal, a five-course meal, and an 11-course degustation meal.
We chose to have the grand 11-course menu and then to share a wine pairing for one person between us.
The first time we’d done a wine pairing in South Africa, it had been for a seven-course meal and we’d drank so much. So since then, we’ve decided to just split one wine pairing between us, and it’s been working fine.
The meal was the most cutting-edge we’ve had so far in South Africa — and that’s a pretty big statement considering we’ve eaten or are eating in almost all of South Africa’s top restaurants.
Almost all our meals have been very enjoyable, but some have been more cutting-edge than others.
Our 11-course meal at Test Kitchen was very enjoyable. 11 courses took us over three hours to finish, and in-between we watched the action in the open kitchen, took lots of photos and observed what people in other tables were doing.
That’s the open kitchen set-up for Test Kitchen. We were right next to the action.
WHO’S GETTING TIRED FIRST?
Across us was a couple seated sideways almost the entire time so that they faced the kitchen instead of each other. They hardly talked.
I said: “What do you think’s the story there?“
Without hesitation, The Travel Companion replied, sure as usual of everything in his world: “They’ve been together for a long time so they’ve run out of things to talk about.“
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It certainly looked that way.
And on our way back to the hotel, I remembered this earlier conversation and said: “Hey, we’ve been together in South Africa for eight days now and I’m not too tired of you yet.”
An interesting set of appetizers
8 MINUTES, 8 HOURS, 8 DAYS
We had a running joke about who would tire of whom first, and what was the time frame we were talking about: 8 minutes, 8 hours, or 8 days.
The Travel Companion is on the hyper side and he has a fairly short attention span for everything and everyone, whereas I have a long attention span but only for things I like.
Put a boring thing or person in front of me, and I shut down in about two minutes. But we’ve been laughing the whole time and I think we’re enjoying much of the trip even if he’ll never really admit this to me directly.
Morocco, see you soon…
(PS: I guess it’s been working out not too badly because we went on to travel to Tanzania for two weeks, on a completely different kind of trip; and soon we’re off to Morocco…)
Not one to miss a beat, the Travel Companion said: “More importantly, you haven’t asked me whether I’m tired of you yet…“
I retorted: “No need to ask a question I know the answer to already.”
Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.