Magic happens in a little place called Kitchen Table, hidden away behind a pair of heavy-set curtains at the rear side of posh hot-dog joint Bubbledogs. We all wait patiently in anticipation upon arrival before the curtains open, soaking up the heady aroma of hot dogs, watching the hipsters chow them down whilst sipping bubbly. Husband & wife team James Knappett and Sandia Chang are behind both operations, they should be very proud of themselves as this intimate chef’s dining table is really rather special. James’s CV speaks for itself having been the former Head Chef of Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley and worked at some of the worlds most highly revered restaurants including, The Ledbury, Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant, Noma, Per Se in New York where he met Sandia, and none other than with the big sweary man at Gordon Ramsey at Royal Hospital Road. The set up is a 19 seat steel topped horse shoe bar, wrapped around a very organised kitchen, which is a huge nod to interactive dining, where Chef James Knappett personally serves each dish with a narration. What makes it so unique is that every component comes with a story. As always I’ll let pics do the talking.
Here’s a quick shot of Bubbledogs as we wait by the curtained entrance for Kitchen Table reveal, we were ready and armed with empty bellies.
The courses chalked on the blackboard are symbolised by a single word, indicative of the main ingredient. However, what these minimal descriptions don’t symbolise is the sheer fuss and craft that goes into making the dish.
First up we had Fresh Peas from the pod, Mint Oil, Elderflower Sorbet, with a pinch of Maldon Salt. If chef Knappett aimed to create a very special palate cleanser with these super sweet peas dressed in mint oil and a quenelle of floral sorbet, he absolutely nails it.
Water of Potato, dried, deep fried with cubes Scottish Salmon, Fresh Sour Cream, Brown Sugar and Fresh Chives. One of the group said ‘if they sold these by the bag-full, I would eat the whole lot!’. After tasting them myself I whole heartedly agreed!
Baby Fennel, Fennel Pollen, Fennel Tips and Lardo from Pitt Cue. The fennel was sweet and subtle with the a hint of aniseed. A very elegant dish indeed and a nice touch with the lardo from a place where swine is king.
Crispy Chicken Skins, Mascarpone, Bacon Jam. How can you combine such simple ingredients and produce something so exemplary? They seem to do this all day long here. You get the intense chicken flavour, deep fried (yet not greasy) with the sweetness of the jam, the mascarpone just balances it all out.
Parker House Roll, Wild Garlic Topping, Butter from Cornish Cows (bred by a local farmer and she only has 6 of them!). We are informed by Chef Knappett that the butter is a by product of the clotted cream from the cows and the wild garlic leaves are dried and blended into a spice. The sweet bread was so fresh and steamy as we tore into it. We kept asking for more.
Come to papa!
Shetland Trout, Raw Lemon Candy, Miso, Turnip Leaves. This particular trout species was chosen as they swim less in the summer, which makes for a fattier more rich flesh – the detail is insane! Miso was armed with a sweet, earthy, salty kick as it should; the lemon cut through the fattiness and turnip leaves added freshness.
Hand Dived Scallops, Baby Lettuce, Lemon Juice, Kohlrabi, Olive Oil, Maldon Sea Salt with Green Strawberry and Granny Smith Apples. The scallops were seared very quickly on one side giving it a smokey edge, but they were kept practically raw as intended by the Chef Knappett. I found the smokey flavour too over-powering for the little sweet scallop, but that’s my 2 cents. Other than that, the green strawberry and granny smith apple were sublime additions to the dish, great work James Knappett!
Red Vein Kale, Smoked Scallop Roe, Roe of John Dory Whipped. I love this dish and it was great to see that the scallop roe wasn’t wasted; the kale was deep fried bringing out the deep earthy flavours – a back hit umami from the grated smoked roe kicked in too. It reminded me of the best deep fried seaweed but better!
Roasted Lobster, Dragon Egg Cucumber, Bourbon Curry Spice. This dish was one of my favourite things to eat of the evening – the meatiness of the lobster worked harmoniously with the bourbon infused curry spices, coral of the lobster’s head was combined too added more depth. Chef Knappett explained that the curry paste was initially wet blended and then spread to dry naturally, intensifying the flavour. And who’s heard of a ‘dragon egg’ cucumber? I certainly haven’t but it didn’t taste like the average cucumber, it was damn good and gave the dish that much added fresh element.
Every good chef tastes as they’re going along. James Knappett is no exception to the rule!
Lamb Ragu with Home Made Macaroni Pasta. Made with the best end of neck, slow cooked with the bone and reduced further to a thick reduction with added thyme and dried tomatoes. This dish was is so rich and flavourful it glued our lips together. It was the definition of lip smacking-goodness.
German Holstein Sirloin. These 8 year old dairy cows spends its’ first 4 years in a dairy production and live a more pampered life we were informed. Is this the next best thing to Kobe beef? It comes with roasted shallots, garlic, bread crumbs and an intense beef flavour.
This is cheese lovers heaven if you’re into that thing – for me it was too overbearing. Taxi for one?
Balsamic Ice Cream, Summer Truffles (from Tuscany), Balsamic Vinegar Infused with Truffles. This is a truffle enthusiast’s nirvana. I found it ‘interesting’. Perhaps it’s not something I’d order on an a la carte menu, but with these tasting menu’s you cannot cater for everyone but I’m glad I had the experience of tasting something new.
Raw Strawberries, Pea Sorbet, Peas and Mint Meringue. An interesting dish – my mind strongly associates peas with savoury foods and having it in a desert with fruit was a sensory confusion, but it was a testament again to the chef’s wondrous creativity.
Roasted Peach, Lemon Thyme, Clotted Cream. The roasting created an intense peach flavour – two mouthfuls was all you needed.
This was Chef Knappett’s version of the Walnut Whip and my god does he deliver a tasty rendition. You get the bitter sweet chocolate, super cold caramel ice cream and a killer good crunchy rich cookie base. It’s so special that it even comes on it’s own plinth!
Salted Madagascan Vanilla Fudge. Intense vanilla flavour coats the palate and rich enough to say ‘I couldn’t eat another one of them!’. But it was all the better for it.
A perfect evening was nicely ended with a selection of whiskies from artisan blender Compass Box.
Chef James Knappett – we salut you for creating a very memorable dining experience for us!
The damage: Expect to pay £120-£180 per head with wine and spirits
The good: Exciting food was delivered right in front of our eyes, by an extremely talented chef and his crew, being at the heart of the matter, the kitchen, added theatre and took ‘eating with your eyes’ to a whole new level. My fellow diners were smitten and had a very special dining experience. So did I. I loved the way we we’re given a story on each dish and it’s elements, some ingredients even coming from the Chef’s parent’s garden in LA. We spent a lot of money, but considering the amount of work that goes in each dish it was worth it.
The bad: The 4 month wait for our seats!
70 Charlotte St, London W1T 4QQ