Hidden behind the heavy curtains at the back of Bubbledogs it’s either by chance or word of mouth that you might stumble upon Kitchen Table, a 19 seat and 13 course dining experience in Fitzrovia. Part of the same restaurant, the two dining concepts can’t be more different but it works out quite well judging the queue for Bubbledogs and the number of fully booked days in the Kitchen Table online booking system.
Kitchen Table was launched shortly after the opening of Bubbledogs in 2012 by husband-and-wife team James Knappett (the chef) and Sandia Chang (restaurant manager/sommelier). Both have experience from respectable restaurants in London and outside of London like Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen. The 19 diners, arriving in two waves (18.00 and 19.30) sit around the open kitchen where all dishes are prepared. I like the idea of watching your food being prepared. It kind of demystifies part of the magic that goes on in the kitchen, at least I would like to think so. Also there’s a much closer interaction with the chefs and a less formal atmosphere. Sitting by a bar-like table might not be the most comfortable way to dine but the heavy-weight thick leather bar stools definitely helped me forget the lack of leg room.
We were escorted pass the busy tables when we arrived Bubbledogs to the much more quiet backroom were half of the table was seated already waiting for the meal to start. Moments after sitting down Sandia came over to offer us drinks and wine before we embarked the tasting menu.
The 13 course tasting menu
Chicken skin with mascarpone and bacon jam. This was a creamy sweet dish with accents of lard pieces combined with an underlying crispiness from the deep-fried chicken skin. I quite liked this dish and since I don’t mind sweetness the bacon jam was great.
Scallop from Scotland, a very light dish and a bit of a contrast to the previous one. On top of the scallop was a thin layer of crunched hazelnuts and mixed greens of purslane, watercress and sea cress. Served with pear purée this was nice sweet mellowness with hints of greens and nuttiness.
The mackerel was a bold dish in the use of ingredients. The combination of the tomatoes, raw mackerel and unripe gooseberries kind of worked. It was interesting to see unripe fruit used as a source of acidity. The pickled green tomatoes were surprisingly almost crunchy.
The perfectly steamed sole with bechamel based sauce was pleasant. Other ingredients part of the dish were dehydrated scallops and green beans. The fish was soft. The familiar smell, from the dried scallop I think, somehow reminded me of ‘Kalles kaviar’.
This bowl came with two components, shaved pan-fried asparagus in parmesan sauce. Nothing else but two wonderful ingredients that work very well together. The foamy light sauce had the unexpected richness of parmesan and was a delight.
I read beef on the menu and expected meat. To my surprise came deep-fried (I think) bone marrow served with baby carrots, tarragon, grated horse radish, elderberry capers. Digging into this dish felt like discovering pockets of flavour. The richness of the marrow could suddenly be broken by the liqorice-like flavours of the capers, like a roller coaster ride, up and down.
This was one of my favourites this evening and the flavours brought my mind to somewhere in the Orient/Middle East. The breast of lamb is from Cornwall. It has been slow cooked to a tender softness with a crisp skin. On the side was fresh peas in mint yoghurt. Peas has unfortunately acquired a bad image, often connected to the type found in the freezer of every supermarket in the country. These on the other hand were almost crunchy and helped to lift the dish. The tomato based sauce is derived from lamb bones.
The duck breast is from Cornwall as well. Like the lamb it was cooked well. If I remember correctly it came with butternut sauce along with pieces of pistachio and cherries.
Next was a transition into dessert, goat cheese which was placed on top of what I believe is marinated courgette. It was topped with lemon and sprinkle of candied olives.
I almost forgot about this course if I didn’t have the picture of the raspberry. Inside was olive oil and basil. Nothing too special about this except that the raspberry tasted half normal half basil.
I really loved the flavours in this dish. Light, refreshing with floral notes of elderflower. The ice cream made of elderflower cordial was a nice treat. There was however one weakness of this dish, the frying batter. It was quite hard and didn’t have the lightness of tempura batter that I see more fit with something light/delicate like elderflower.
This was probably my favourite dessert of the evening. I’ve spotted beetroot in dessert menus of a number of restaurants I dined in this year and every time I’ve walked out with a positive impression. This evening was no exception. The beetroot came in three shapes: sorbet, meringue and sticky sponge. The contrast to the beetroot was liquorice ice cream. There were many textures involved in this dish and I appreciate desserts like this that don’t rely on sweetness.
To finish off the dinner we had this “chocolate top”. It resembles something I had in my childhood in Sweden but instead of plain cream this was filled with something similar but with caramel flavour. The bottom was made of a stick wafer of salted caramel.
The whole meal had a good flow in both pace and flavours. Many ingredients were sourced from UK, especially from Cornwall and the freshness did come out in the dishes as I’ve mentioned above. Some combinations were daring and made me discover new angles. At the same time there was the beef bone marrow where I felt the ingredients were more on their own than together.
The open kitchen operated in near silence like a clockwork. It was like watching a well-rehearsed play. This night James Knappett was absent but his young team did an excellent job in delivering what I believe is one of the more exciting dining experiences I’ve experienced in London so far. In case you still have space after the 13 courses there is always the option to order a hotdog at Bubbledogs on the way out!
For more photos from Kitchen Table, please visit my Flickr set.
Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs
70 Charlotte St,
London W1T 4QG
Tel. +44 (0)20 7637 7770