I’m going to let you in on a little secret. There’s a great fine dining restaurant hidden behind the popular London restaurant Bubbledogs. Ever wonder why they have that glorious “&” everywhere? It’s for & Kitchen Table. In reality, it’s not that much of a secret. It got a Michelin star in 2015, so it’s been a rising star of the foodie scene for awhile. The chef, James Knappet, and the sommelier, Sandia Chang, are an amazing (married) duo who have worked at some of the top restaurants around the world, and they came to London and opened their own restaurant. I don’t just like this restaurant; it’s probably my favorite fine dining restaurant in London (I’ve been four times), which is why I thought it would be the perfect choice for my first blog post for The Boozy Bunch.
Atmosphere: There’s nothing better than arriving at Bubbledogs, walking past the queue of people at the door and telling the host that you’ve got a reservation at Kitchen Table. You’re ushered inside and swept to the back of the restaurant, disappearing behind a black curtain as the place where you’ll be having an amazing meal opens up in front of you. It’s not big; in fact, it only seats 19. You’re seated around the professional kitchen giving visual access to everything the chefs are doing for you. Because of this, it’s a very laid back atmosphere. Gone is the perfectly decorated restaurant interior where you may feel out of place. Gone is the idea that a person has to be wearing a jacket in order to enjoy fine dining. Here you are welcomed like stepping into someone’s home (albeit a home with a professional kitchen and a host of chefs and a couple of sommeliers to cater to you). The menu is written on the wall in its simplicity: a list of single words giving a vague description of what you will be putting in your mouth and tasting over the course of the night. Words like Chicken, Pig, Pineapple or Oyster tantalize you and make you wonder exactly what you’ll be eating. On a normal night they offer two seating times: 6:00 pm and 7:30 pm. They will seat one-half of the room for each seating, so at 7:30 the entire table is full. Honestly, I’ve only ever gone to the early seating, as it seems that more of the food preparation happens earlier in the evening, and I enjoy watching them make the food so much that I would prefer to see more of that.
Food and Drink: Like many other restaurants that have tasting menus, they offer a wine pairing selection to go with your meal. The first time I dined, I went with four other people, so we opted to get wines by the bottle. That night, my partner and I were the ones drinking heavily, so I think we ended up drinking most of the wine. I definitely (probably) remember that we ordered some wine only for ourselves by the end of the evening. Ever since then, my partner and I have ordered the wine pairings to go with the meal. In all honesty, it is much easier if you don’t mind having quite a bit to drink with your meal (we don’t), and Sandia does an amazing job coming up with interesting wine pairings to go with the food. If you decide to go by the bottle, either she or another sommelier will be on hand to offer suggestions and give you a great accompaniment to your meal. But what about the food? The food is really good. James does a great job with coming up with innovative and inventive ways to present and cook the food for you. Because you get to watch James and his team make the food for you, you can get an idea of the hard work and effort that goes into making each plate look and taste amazing. With the small size of the venue, you really feel like you’re getting some personal attention from the chef. On my third visit, I brought my parents who were visiting from the United States in to eat, as they had read about the restaurant and really wanted to try it. They loved chatting with James and Sandia about food and wine, and because my parents are in the home cookware business, they chatted at length about the tools and appliances that James was using to prepare their meal. It may have been a bit of a strange experience for him, but my parents loved being able to have a one-on-one with the chef about his kitchen. I imagine he must have enjoyed their appreciation for his kitchen as well.
James’ signature dish is simply called Chicken on the menu but consists of crispy chicken skin and bacon jam. And it’s fantastic. I look forward to having it every time I go back. Another course, Pear, was a pear cake with liquorice ice cream, and it is still one of the best desserts I’ve had. Ox consisted of an ox heart tartare with smoked ox tongue. During truffle season, they sometimes offer supplemental courses with truffle. They offered one that was Brie de Meaux with shaved white truffle that was outstanding. Sometimes just using the freshest, in-season ingredients is all you need for a great course. At the end of the meal, you can always get tea or coffee, and they offer a delightful selection of foraged, fresh tisanes depending on what is in season. They also bring around a box of digestifs in case anything takes your fancy (it usually takes ours), and Kitchen Table is where I had my first experience (along with future experiences) with Kamm & Sons liqueur.
Special Event Nights: James and Sandia also set aside a few nights a year where they invite guest chefs to come in and cook a meal in their kitchen. These special events usually only have a single seating for the entire room at 7:00 pm. I tried to go to one that featured Brad McDonald from The Lockhart (as an American, I really wanted to make it happen), but unfortunately I was too late to get into that one (19 seats is a small number!). However, they recently had a night where they invited Angel Vazquez from Intro restaurant in Mexico because of the Mexico-United Kingdom Dual Year (Sandia and James also went to Mexico). As a lover of Mexican food and of Kitchen Table, I was incredibly excited to go to this event. Angel and James created a menu that was a fantastic fusion of Mexican and British food. With the laid back atmosphere of one giant table, it can be quite easy to start discussing the meal with the people sitting next to you. On my left were a lovely pair of ladies – one of them was from Mexico, so we had a great time chatting about Mexican food and she managed to fill me in about the types of food I was unfamiliar with. They seemed to enjoy our company, and it really made for a fun evening.
Some of the stand out dishes for me at this event were the grilled baby corn, the tamal with truffle, scallops aguachile (think a Mexican version of ceviche), carrots with mole sauce, duck breast with pipian sauce, lamb sweetbreads and a chocolate mole dessert. But in all honesty, most of the dishes were fantastic. It was just the right blend of Mexican and British. I did think things could be a bit hotter, as I do love my Mexican quite spicy, so James brought out a (very) hot salsa for me to try with one of the courses – they definitely were prepared for people like me. Sandia did a great job pairing wines with the meal. They even started and ended the meal with cocktails. The starting cocktail was very similar to a Negroni (which makes a great aperitif), and the ending cocktail was one with a coffee liqueur to simulate ending your meal with coffee. Both of these cocktails were made with my new favorite liqueur: Ancho Reyes Chile Liquor. It definitely added a nice bit of chile spice to both of the cocktails, and I went through great trouble sourcing it for home use afterwards. We may then have sat around drinking from their amazing selection of digestifs while discussing food and drinks with the lovely gentleman who was seated to our right. They offer a selection of interesting liqueurs, but they also make their own house infused vodkas. I tried a pine infused vodka that was outstanding and different from most other digestifs I’ve had. We were the last ones to leave, and by the time we left, it was too late to do anything but catch an Uber home.
All of these reasons are enough for me to love Kitchen Table. But I also feel like Sandia goes above and beyond the call of duty. She always recognizes us when we come in and says she’s glad that we came back. When we told her we were planning a trip to the Champagne region, she told me to email her for some food and wine recommendations. We even went out of our way to go to one of the Champagne houses she recommended, and it was completely worth it. For me, coming to Kitchen Table is incredibly special. It’s definitely not cheap, as just the food alone will cost you more than £100, but for the service, the food and the ambiance, it’s definitely worth it.
You can find Kitchen Table here:
70 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4QG