"This small space does exactly what it says on the tin..."Review Rating: Reviewed by Laurel
Summer is always a golden time for food in London, with exciting new gastronomic treats chipping away weekly at my disposable income, but few have made me more excited in recent months than this. Adam Simmonds has arrived in London, with his Soho pop up - The Test Kitchen - now open on Frith Street.
With only 23 covers this small - but perfectly formed - space does exactly what it says on the tin. With no set genre and no set menu, it’s a moveable feast that changes regularly, evolving and developing based on guest feedback in preparation for Adam’s first permanent London opening next year. Book in advance - it’s going to be popular.
The space itself is a bar of seating set around a central kitchen, giving the guests unprecedented access to the kitchen, seeing every shred of detail that goes into each dish. And detail there is. The menu is a smorgasbord of creativity, with inventive flavour and ingredient combinations showcasing Adam’s incredible attention to detail and imaginative thinking, resulting in unusually delicious flavour pairings. Quail is paired with English asparagus, sunflower seeds and lardo; red mullet with green strawberries and green tomatoes; and pheasant egg with kohlrabi, girolles and truffle. Vegetarian dishes are dialled up with white asparagus, Linzer potatoes, caviar and whey; whilst desserts feature equally interesting ingredients like Charentais melon with black olive and saffron; or yeast parfait with lychee and puffed rice. The possibilities are endless.
Visiting on a weeknight, it was almost empty when we arrived at 7pm but by the time we left at 9pm, people were being turned away. Always a good sign. While it’s a temptation to order one of everything on the menu, we were recommended four to five dishes each.
A underrated vegetable, a chunk of swede arrived in front of me utterly transformed, with a topping of juicy blackberries, cocoa nibs and shavings of creamy goat’s cheese. See what I mean about unusual ingredient combinations? Sounds more than a little random on paper but it was a taste sensation. A poached scallop, served with cubes of Nashi pear, sesame and floating in delicately flavoured dashi, literally melted in the mouth. My dish of cured red mullet, with green tomatoes, a purée of rocket, fresh almonds and a sprinkling of edible flowers was almost too pretty to consume, but it was a plate packed with summer flavour and juxtaposed textures. The favourite dish of the night (apart from pudding… but more about that in a moment…) was a plate of the tenderest lamb, served with salsify cooked two ways, king oyster, pickled shallot and milk skin. This was the one that disappointed us both, purely because we wished it was a full roast dinner sized portion rather than the delicate tasting plate that was so lovingly created before our eyes.
Back to the pudding; make sure you leave space. I chose a heart-stoppingly delicious concoction of whisky chocolate mousse served in a meringue, lime curd, salted chocolate rocks, salted cocoa nib granola, a coffee gel, coffee ice cream and a finger lime, coffee and whisky syrup. It was, quite simply, a taste sensation, a different delight from each mouthful.
Obviously given the whole point of The Test Kitchen, it’s highly unlikely any of this will be on the menu when - not if - you visit, but with the mind of Adam Simmonds clearly a constant whirligig of creative flavour, you can be safe in the knowledge that whatever you end up eating is going to be spectacular. Undoubtedly one of the best meals I’ve had in London. If this is a preview of his first permanent restaurant, I can’t wait for next year.
Laurel reviewed The Test Kitchen on Tue 11 Jul 2017