I know I promised to get a move on in terms of relaying some of my Australian adventures…but then Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs happened and my heart will explode from over-excitement if I am unable to share it with you immediately.
As is often the case when it comes to living in a new city, particularly one as large as London, certain luxuries – friends, for instance – are not always readily available and sometimes hard to come by. Conveniently for me, I am a firm believer that one of the many marks of a confident woman lies in her capacity to never be afraid of being alone. [Although I suspect this belief was purely formed on the basis of self-suitability, resulting from the moment I relocated to London and realised that this is how I would be spending much of my time].
Nevertheless, I have grown to rather enjoy my single-handed restaurant encounters and every time an opportunity arises, I immediately consult my list and book myself in to one dining establishment or another.
Queue: Kitchen Table at Bubble Dogs.
Having read so much about it since its opening in 2012, and then even more when it gained its first Michelin Star in 2015, Kitchen Table had been an inclusion on my hit list long before I even moved to London. So when it came to deciding what it is I wanted to do last Friday, I was delighted to find one open reservation for 6:00PM at the nineteen seat counter that evening. It was a birthday miracle! And not a particularly well-deserved one if truth be told.
I excitedly ran down Charlotte Street after work and was warmly welcomed into Bubbledogs (which in itself never fails to deliver a fun night – hotdogs and champagne? Sold.). The kind lady at the front door took my many winter layers and offered me both a stool and a glass of champagne – each of which I accepted gratefully. Shortly after, they ushered me through a velvet curtain and I was immediately transported from the buzzing front room that was Bubbledogs to a hushed counter-style dining area with elevated seating, all of which was centred on a sleek open kitchen.
Chef James Knappett introduced himself and gave a brief introduction to the overall concept, explaining that him and his team create a fresh menu daily to showcase the best seasonal ingredients on hand that day. On this particular evening the £88 tasting menu included 13 individual courses with a number of bolt-on options that were left to the diner to tack on at their own discretion: British caviar (£22) and Perigord truffle (£45), which also included an additional two dessert courses.
And then the food began. Seventeen courses flashed by in a happy blur and before I knew it, 6:00PM had become 10:00PM. Even I was unaware I could sit attentively still and completely unaccompanied for that length of time. But I was so wrapped in the whole affair that time no longer seemed to matter. Between watching the chefs glide effortlessly across the kitchen and waiting in anticipation for the next dish to be served, I am certain I could have happily sat for several hours more. Furthermore, the wonderful wait staff, in addition to being both attentive and knowledgeable, never once made me feel as though I was alone.
There is no written menu, aside from a chalk-scrawled listing down one wall of the dining space, which simply monikers the primary ingredient that each plate will seek to showcase. Each dish is cooked directly in front of the guests and the chefs deliver the finished product before describing in detail what it encompasses. I will let my photographs take it from here as I am uncertain as to what each dish is in its entirety. In a bid to enjoy my experience, I chose to write nothing down and just submit to the beauty that was dinner [read: drink all the champagne and not be distracted from my food…worst.blogger.ever].
Oyster. Bergamot ice – grapes – wild fennel pollen.
Whilst I am an avid purveyor of ‘less is more’ when it comes to the perfect oyster, this was damn well delicious.
Potato. Steelhead trout roe – dill – devilled egg mousse – salt and vinegar.
From what I understood, starch was extracted from potato water, dehydrated and then fried. As tasty as it was interesting.
Chicken. Crispy skin – rosemary cream cheese – bacon jam.
What’s not to love?
Pretzel. Choux bun – fish roe – Meyer lemon – brown butter – shaved scallop roe.
I liked the idea of this, but it didn’t come together for me. Not my favourite.
[Additional] Caviar. Cornish caviar – oyster leaf – sour cream – crisp bread.
Chef Knappett seemed quite chuffed over his newest discovery: sustainably farmed British caviar. And rightfully so, it was excellent. I secretly pined for more crispy chicken skin to smear those salty little pearls across.
Crab. Dorset brown crab – radish – turnip – monks beard.
One of my favourite dishes of the entire meal, thin slices of radish hid a generous pile of sweet white crab meat dressed in a rich sauce made from the brown meat.
Scallop. Apple salad – celeriac puree – pickled pine – pine oil – scallop skirt broth.
Another favourite! The Scottish scallop was painfully good and all the elements went so well together.
Turbot. Burnt onion – black garlic.
I am not going to lie: I remember next to nothing about this dish. I guess it didn’t sing to me.
[Additional] Truffle. homemade agnolotti – polenta – parmesan cream – black truffle sauce – macadamia.
One of the best truffle dishes I have ever had the pleasure of inhaling. There, I said it. This dish blew. me. away. Heady with the aroma of Perigord truffle, the little pasta parcels exploded with cheese-y liquid goodness. So good. So very, very good.
Pretty much exactly that. Any kitchen that has the balls to serve up a humble wedge of beetroot as the encore to a particularly outstanding truffle dish must ooze confidence. In any case, with its concentrated earthy sweetness, this was some really good beetroot and it definitely held its own.
Beef. Aged Hereford sirloin – smoked bone marrow – wild garlic – crispy artichoke skin.
I adore a good piece of aged meat and I really wanted to love this dish. However, I felt the flavour of the meat was lost amongst all the other components the dish had going on. I really missed the ‘beefiness’ that I am certain such an excellent slab of cow would have delivered.
Poacher. Crumpet – sherry roasted baby onion.
This arrived, I am guessing, in lieu of a cheese course. The unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese was melted over a lovely homemade crumpet in what Chef Knappett described as a Lincolnshire rarebit. It was tasty, but quite heavy considering we were now twelve courses deep and I struggled to finish my portion.
[Additional] Orange. Toast ice cream – Seville orange marmalade – toast powder.
Could it finally be…a dessert I actually enjoy? Not being a sweet tooth, I am rarely (/never) excited to see the savoury take a turn towards sweet on any tasting menu. But this…THIS! A playful take of marmalade on toast, I loved it. If only I had an endless supply of buttered toast ice cream taking refuge in my freezer.
Rhubarb. Hibiscus syrup – toasted black pepper marshmallow – milk ice cream.
Embarrassingly, I loved this too. At this point my aversion to desserts was leering dangerously towards ‘lifestyle choice’ as opposed to genuine dislike.
Apple. Caramelised roast apples – sorrel – custard.
This I found to be more interesting than good, although I appreciated its muted sweetness and herbaceous quality. I also rather enjoyed the varying temperatures and textures.
[Additional] Banana. Roasted banana mousse – caramelised banana – banana ice cream – peanuts – burnt caramel.
I really hate bananas – but this was pretty good. Damn it, Knappett.
Vanilla. Salted fudge.
There is some sort of magic happening behind that velvet curtain and you cannot help but sense that there are some brilliant minds at play. I came away from Kitchen Table feeling elated – and looking back on the experience, it is definitely a feeling that has carried across. From start to finish it is blatantly apparent that a lot of love and passion has gone into sourcing high quality British ingredients and truly making them the star on the plate. Sure, course progression wasn’t always perfect and not every dish came together for me…but what can you expect from a menu constructed more or less off the cuff that day. Genius. Pure genius.