Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs
70 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4QG
Tel: 020 7637 7770
Food type: Modern British/ European
Nearest tube: Goodge Street
Website: Kitchen Table
Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs has been on my list of restaurants to go to for a very, very long time. It came highly recommended by endoedibles when I met up with him for lunch at the Fat Duck back in 2014. He reckoned that this was the best meal he had during his trip to London up to that point. High praise given that he had been hitting up pretty much every single top restaurant there is in London during his trip. Of course, getting a reservation here would prove to be tricky. Very soon after his tip, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star making it even more difficult to get a table without booking a fair bit in advance.
Located at the back of Bubbledogs which is a trendy gourmet hot dog and champagne bar is the 19 seat Kitchen Table where head chef James Knappett can be seen busy at work. He had decided on having two completely separate restaurants co-existing on site to allow him to oversee both kitchens without having to travel too far. A very smart move indeed because during the day, James would be able to check on the prep in the hot dog kitchen while at night he would be leading his young, energetic team in the fine-dining Kitchen Table. Indeed, Kitchen Table is only open at night from Tuesdays to Saturdays and operates two seatings at 6pm and 730pm. In practice, half of the seats are filled during the earlier seating and the other half during the later seating – i.e. none of the tables are turned over.
Once you walk past the magic curtains you are met with a rectangular counter surrounding the kitchen. At the far end of the room is a blackboard where the daily menu is written. The menu actually consists of singular words highlighting the key ingredient of each dish but hides the amount of work that goes into each course. The no-choice tasting menu is priced at £88 although at the start of the meal, diners are also given the option of adding a couple more courses for a supplement. The restaurant does make adjustments to the menu if you have dietary requirements given sufficient notice. Given the difficulty of getting a table here, it was a complete no brainer for us to opt for the additional courses. Do note however that given the nature of how the kitchen operates, should you choose not to have the extra courses but other people in your seating do so, you will have a couple of pauses in your menu. The kitchen table concept of sitting at a counter next to other strangers/ fellow diners may not be everyones cup of tea. I am certainly not a big fan of small talk with people I don’t know but on the night we visited our neighbours kept to themselves.
Now before I even go on about the food, I would like to make a special mention about the champagne list. Given that the restaurant shares the same cellar as the champagne bar, there is a very interesting selection of growers champagne on offer. Jacque Selosse and Cedric Bouchard are just a couple of names featured on the list with a lengthy selection from the latter. Even more impressive however was the mark-ups which were not your usual eye-watering London prices. There is a wine pairing on offer for the menu but it would be foolish to look a gift horse in the mouth and needless to say, we happily drank champagne for our meal.
We were presented with a couple of canapés in quick succession. First some kumamoto oysters with cucumber was refreshing. We were told that these kumamoto oysters (native to America) were sourced locally. The oysters had a nice rounded balance of sweet and salty balanced by the acidity by the granita served with it. Next was a potato cracker topped with cubes of smoked salmon with a molasses dressing and finished with some chives. This was interesting with the contrasting flavours of sweet and salty even harmony. The final snack was a chicken skin which will always be a guilty pleasure for me.
Bread was then officially served. I was very impressed that the kitchen went through the trouble of making their own bread. Unfortunately, many of the top restaurants in London buy in their bread and although they are of the opinion that the quality of bought in bread is very good, the truth is, it isn’t. It is pretty easy to tell just from the texture whether a bread has been freshly baked or has been bought in. The bread served here was a parkerhouse, something I have grown up eating as a kid. Dare I say it, but this was probably some of the best bread I have eaten in a LONG time. To go with the bread was a smoked cod roe dip pretty similar to a taramasalata finished with some dehydrated scallop roe. I would happily come back here just to eat the bread with a nice glass of champagne.
The next couple of courses were based around seafood. Mylor shrimps were served raw with some carrots and a burnt butter puree. The shrimps themselves were palpably fresh having been alive shortly before dinner service with the natural sweetness coming through nicely. Next was an Orkney scallop which was cooked over a barbecue with heather and served with a beautiful consommé made from the skirt of the scallop. For me this was exceptional cooking, with a pristine core ingredient utilised to its fullest. The consommé was simply divine giving a massive umami boost to the dish. The last fish course was a fillet of brill steamed and served with textures of onions. The fish was accurately cooked but for me just lacked a bit more seasoning.
Our first extra course was Perigord truffle with baby maris piper potatoes tied together with a brown butter emulsion. It is hard not to like a dish featuring these black diamonds but for me the wow factor of this dish came from the little potatoes which had an amazing depth of flavour. We were told later that the potatoes comes from the restaurants own allotment up North. A dish of Jerusalem artichoke was a decent distraction before the main course. A hollowed out jerusalem artichoke skin was deep fried and served with the artichoke prepared in different ways.
Beef was the main course of choice on our day and featured Ruby Red Sirloin served with crapaudine beetroot and horseradish. I am always skeptical about British beef served in restaurants partly because many restaurants, even high end ones, put very little effort into sourcing their beef. There will always be good and bad animal husbandry but the two meats which suffer the most are beef and pork. It is up to the restaurant to carefully source their produce, which very few do, instead relying on large commercial suppliers where the quality of the meat is not very consistent, if not very good. Anyways, I digress. I am pretty confident a lot of effort had been put into sourcing the beef served to us because it was amazing. The beef had a good amount of marbling, with good texture and meaty flavour. I am not sure if James goes to the lengths that Mikael (of Hedone) does of personally selecting the meat he wants to be aged but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does.
For our cheese course we were served a Welsh Rarebit made from Lincolnshire double-barrelled poacher. While I could find no faults with this dish, I do wonder whether this very rich preparation was the right choice to follow after the (rich) beef main course.
A flurry of desserts soon followed with an additional two added as part of our supplementary dishes. The first, and my favourite dessert of the night, was a take on marmalade on toast. Chef informs us that he was inspired by the film ‘Paddington Bear’ and went out of the way to create a dessert based on Paddington’s favourite food. His very clever take featured toast ice cream topped with Seville orange marmalade with a dusting of toast powder. The toast ice cream had a very nice savoury note to it which was balanced by the sweetness of the marmalade. Rhubarb was next and consisted of poached rhubarb sat on top of a meringue ‘burnt’ with coal and finished off on the table with a rhubarb soup. The rhubarb had good texture and had a nice amount of sweetness to balance its inherent acidity. This was followed by apple and custard. Layers of compressed Granny Smith apples are compressed with caramel and served with a dill granita and warm custard. I loved the play on temperatures here with the hot and cold highlighting the apples which were served at room temperature. The last official dessert was a take on prune and armagnac.
There were two smaller bites before our meal officially concluded. The first was probably too large to be called a petit fours but too small to be categorised an official dessert. Served on a little stand was a salted caramel ice cream with a praline base and covered with a dark chocolate shell – a very posh Magnum. Finally some vanilla fudge concluded the filling but very satisfying meal.
I was very impressed with the cooking at Kitchen Table. A lot of work had been put into each dish, but without over complicating the flavours on the plate. It is also nice to see a chef put a lot of effort into the sourcing of his produce and where possible use British produce. The meticulous effort is rewarded on the plate with stunning produce which require very little intervention by the chef. The minimalistic style of cooking, but by no means any less complex, may not be the hot flavour of the month with the Twitterati but for me it is very impressive and shows a chef with confidence in his cooking. For me, Kitchen Table ticks all the right boxes – great produce, confident cooking and great wine list.