Been a while since I updated the blog, no real reason why other than sheer laziness. When I have had some free time, I’ve gone out to some amazing restaurants, I just haven’t written about it yet. So I’m going to try and catch up but where do I start? Tredwells? La Dame de Pic? Hix Soho? Claude Bosi at Bibendum? Obviously the page title gives it away, I’m starting with Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs.
Husband and wife, James Knappett and Sandia Chang both had different ideas for a Restaurant. Not being able to choose, they opened both in 2012. Sandia’s idea was Bubbledogs, serving primarily Champagne and Hotdogs, hence the name. All the Champagnes are from growers, none of the big household names and its an incredible selection. Having arrived early, I sat by the bar for a pre dinner drink and listened attentively to the server as he explained the nuances between the different champagnes available by the glass. Having changed my mind three times because they all sounded so good, I settled on their own label pink fizz at £11 a glass. If you think that is reasonable for a glass of champagne in the West End, my son Sam opted for the £6.50 one and that still wasn’t the cheapest option. Incredible value and testament to Sandia’s knowledge and passion.
James had the idea for a Kitchen Table and after opening in 2012 they achieved a Michelin star in 2014. Normally there are two sittings, 6pm and 7.30pm, we were the latter. At the allotted time, all the 7.30pm diners were ushered through a curtain at the back of Bubbledogs to the Kitchen Table. Twenty seats surround the kitchen on three sides, eight seats were already taken from the earlier sitting as we took our seats. On one wall there were some blackboards, predominantly filled with signatures and good luck messages from friends and fellow chefs, including Thomas Keller who James had worked with at Per Se in New York.
On another blackboard was today’s menu. In case you were wondering why Sam was with me and not my Pesky Pescetarian, there is only one menu and I didn’t think it was right to ask James to accommodate the changes Beverley would want, although he did say later in the evening he would have tried.
The menu changes daily, normally a twelve course tasting menu at £98 (Price rise on 19th July 2017 to £125), today it was fourteen with two optional courses at a supplement of £45. Being sat in such close proximity to James and his team, meant you could ask questions, my first question was do we have the additional courses? I think the diners from the 6pm sitting who had just had the Lobster answered yes before James could. I went for the optional wine pairing, I like a drink but would have struggled with a full glass with every course and was relieved to find out that the wine pairing was also a tasting journey involving fizz, beer, sake and wine. Considering that the menu changes daily, the pairings were not only superb matches to enhance the food but quirky and interesting.
Now I could start to list all the dishes, especially the chicken skin with rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam (above) or the smoked beef fat onion butter with black Italian truffle, but this post would quickly become a list of ingredients, textures and superlatives and with what turned out to be nineteen stunning courses – yes, nineteeen. James threw in some surprises – that’s a lot of ingredients, textures and superlatives. So instead I’m going to tell you what really caught my eye with this restaurant, this kitchen table, this tasting menu and why you should try it. It was James himself. He was doing most of the cooking. He wasn’t just standing at the pass and dressing the dishes, he was doing the cooking. I watched him attentively basting the duck for the earlier sitting not leaving it for one of his brigade to do, so I asked him why. His reply was so refreshing. He explained that he had worked in numerous high end kitchens, their menu’s would change monthly or quarterly and it would be enjoyable to him as a chef when they first cooked them but slowly it would become mundane. Talking to him you can hear the passion he has not just for cooking but for the ingredients as well. He wanted to be challenged and here at his own restaurant, with a menu that has changed in some way every day, he has more than risen to the challenge.
We all know and have been to restaurants owned by various famous chefs but how often are they actually in the kitchen? How often do they actually cook? If they aren’t there on a wet and cold Wednesday evening, does the standard slip? If James isn’t cooking, the standard doesn’t slip because the Kitchen Table doesn’t open.
I’ve been fortunate and lucky enough to have had tasting Menu’s in various restaurants in this country and abroad, from aspiring young talented Chefs to three Michelin starred chefs but this quite simply was the best tasting menu I’ve ever had.