When was the last time a plate of food really smacked you in the face and yelled “eat me, eat me”? How about two plates? How about fourteen? Kitchen Table does away with the three-pronged dining approach and instead offers a daily-changing, multi-course gastronomic extravaganza. Alright, a tasting menu (£78). Husband-and-wife team James Knappett (chef) and Sandia Chang (front of house) have more experience than you can shake a wooden spoon at (Per Se, Noma, The Berkeley, The Ledbury, Roganic), and it shows: their food is damn near perfect.
Bubbledogs, a natty champagne bar fronts the building, with the 19-seat counter of Kitchen Table toward the rear. With its exposed brick and industrial pipes, it has all the atmosphere of LaserQuest for the over 40s. “Henrietta in PR would love it here! It’s just soooo NYC”. By which she meant scandalously expensive (how much for a hotdog?!). But it’s delicious that the Henriettas of this world are subsidising Knappett’s plaything at the back.
Smack! Raw oyster. Smack! Chicken skin, mascarpone bacon jam (which was the naughtiest, most finger-lickin’ mouthful I’ve had all year). Smack! Raw scallop, mayonnaise, grated scallop roe. “Eat me, eat me!” Hang on, I was just getting into tha- Smack! And so it goes. Each dish hurls you down a culinary path never thought possible, and then you emerge from the other side, plate scraped clean, presented with the next. Knappett might be having fun, the diners could be too – hell, people have even turned up on their own – but you wouldn’t know it. They sit in near silence, perhaps in shock at the prices on the wine list – there’s very little under £45/bottle – or in disbelief that they’d managed to bag a seat. The chefs break that with the tone of a surgeon conveying bad news: “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do. . . this is Strawberry, brioche, vanilla ice cream”. Tish and pish.
Away with such Victorian nonsense. If you can be seen you should bloody well be heard. Food with character deserves exuberant showmen and an appreciative crowd. We tried to applaud from our stools, to demand that bacon jam recipe, to parade the chef on our shoulders down Charlotte Street, but there was to be none of that. It’s just soooo not NYC. It’s stale, gentrified, and oh too polite. Yet, you should go – with 18 friends.
£320 for two (with service and enough wine to stun a mule)
Food; 9 Service; 7 Ambience; 5
Bubbledogs & Kitchen Table, 70 Charlotte Street