One of my favourite foodie areas of London is Soho. It is home to some of the most eclectic restaurants in the city with every type of cuisine you can imagine – Chinese, Japanese, Peruvian, German, the list goes on and on. It’s also home to some fantastic pop-up restaurants, one of which Ciaran and I had the pleasure of visiting a few weeks ago called The Test Kitchen by talented chef, Adam Simmonds.
The Test Kitchen is a pop-up concept that opened a few months ago on Frith Street by award-winning chef Adam Simmonds. His pursuit is to open his new restaurant called “Simmonds” in the city and he has launched The Test Kitchen as a way to literally test out dishes that will potentially appear on the menu at his permanent new restaurant in 2018.
The dishes on the menu are tested on the diners and changed out weekly depending on their feedback – a concept I haven’t personally experienced previously or heard of being done in London. Ones that are the most favourable, will make the cut and are likely to end up on the menu at Chef Simmonds’ permanent restaurant. I really loved the concept and the staff were truly interested in hearing our feedback.
The restaurant is lovely and cosy, with a huge bar where you take a seat on a bar stool and watch the chefs in action. It inspired me to buy some Cheap Bar stools for my kitchen, they looked amazing! I love seeing food prepared right in front of my eyes – I find it really fascinating and fun to watch how the food is made and witnessing all the small finishing touches that go in to making a dish beautiful – there is a whole lot of love that goes into each dish at The Test Kitchen and it’s evident that the team are quite passionate about the food they’re producing.
We ordered from the a la carte menu – 8 dishes from each section of the menu – veg, meat, fish and dessert.
We decided to take our server’s recommendation and went for the Cos Lettuce with hazelnut, fennel pollen and white currants and the Pearl Barley with cauliflower romanesque topped with truffle.
The Cos Lettuce was light and refreshing – I loved the fennel pollen dressing and the hazelnut added a hint of sweetness. It was a great starter to have if you are indulging in a heavier main course.
The Pearl Barley was a heartier dish and the aroma of truffle was heavenly. It definitely had that wow factor – rich, creamy and decadent. I could see myself warming up on a winter’s day with a bowl of this rich risotto. Ciaran and I both thought it was excellent.
For our fish dishes, I went for the Scallop Ceviche as scallops are one of my favourite seafood dishes, served with green asparagus, avocado and almonds. Ciaran went for our server’s recommendation of the Cured Red Mullet, green tomatoes, rocket and fresh almonds.
My Scallop Ceviche was served with tiny morsels of caviar on top, a really luxurious touch to quite a plain dish. The scallops were delicate and tasted fresh, but I think they could have used a bit of acidity – a squeeze of lemon on top would have really jazzed it up and added a bit more flavour.
Ciaran’s Cured Red Mullet was superb – the fish was so light, refreshing and fresh and I thought all the toppings green tomatoes, fresh almond and an icy granita that added the perfect amount of acid to the dish. The red mullet had a sashimi-like quality to it and we could both agree that this was a winner in our books. But little did we know, the best was yet to come…
Our meat dishes were my favourite – they were out of this world delicious.
I went on our server’s recommendations of the Veal Sweetbreads with lardo, girolles, peas and lemon and wow, it was insanely delicious. It was only the second time I had tasted veal sweetbreads before and it was a real treat. The veal sweetbreads were perfectly breaded, delicate and succulent and the jus on top was savoury and really completed the dish. The veal sweetbreads were perfect on their own, I don’t even think the dish needed the peas or the girolles, but of course they just added that extra special touch to the dish. I would happily order this, again, and again.
Ciaran went for something outside of his comfort zone – the Lamb with black garlic and anchovy, aubergine and fermented tomato. I had a few bites of the lamb and as someone who isn’t a huge fan of lamb, I was well and truly impressed. It was so incredibly tender and delicious, I thought it was a really beautiful dish. The black garlic was aromatic and although there was anchovy, it wasn’t overpowering in the slightest. Ciaran loved the dish and to be honest, I couldn’t decide which I liked more – the veal sweetbreads or the lamb – a definite tie and in my mind, I remember thinking, this is happy food. I hope that the chef incorporates at least one of these two meat dishes on his permanent menu because they were fantastic.
A little something sweet for dessert sounded really great after our savoury dishes so we went for the Matcha Tea Custard with poached English cherries and red wine syrup (Yum) and the Carre du Berry with pineapple, rosemary and tapioca crisp.
I loved this dessert, it was thick and creamy and the matcha flavour with the poached cherries was just incredible. I have grown to be really fond of matcha and this dessert was a perfect combination of sweet yet sharp from the acidity of the cherries – needless to say I was scraping the bottom of the bowl!
The Carre du Berry with pineapple was a bit surprising – in simple terms it is herb-crusted goats cheese with pineapple and a tapioca crisp. The goats cheese was creamy and I loved the spicy herbs but it needed a much bigger piece of pineapple to pair it with. The saltiness of herbed goats cheese paired so well with the sweet pineapple, it just needed more pineapple to be a real winner.
At the end of our dinner, we were asked what are thoughts were and overall, it was a spectacular evening. The service is impeccable and I think it’s a really cool concept to try out. Chef Adam Simmonds is incredibly talented and it was really refreshing to feel like your feedback truly means something to someone. I can’t wait to try out his permanent restaurant next year!
The Test Kitchen is open until March 2018. It seats 23 but the good news is, you can book in advance (which is becoming a rarity in London!). I highly recommend testing out this fantastic pop-up concept. Pull up a chair, have a glass of vino, order a few dishes from each section of the menu and enjoy watching the talented team at work. It’s a great date night destination and also a perfect spot if you’re a real foodie. Pay them a visit and let me know which phenomenal dishes you get to try, I’d love to hear which new creations they have up their sleeves…
Thank you to Chef Adam Simmonds and the wonderful Test Kitchen Team for hosting us – it was a really unique and fun experience that I hope to try again soon!