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Bubbledogs' Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia, London

Rating: 92.
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Note: Bubbledogs Kitchen Table was awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 guide to Great Britain & Ireland.

Last summer James Knappett (head chef) and Sandia Chang (restaurant manager/sommelier) opened their restaurant Bubbledogs on Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London. Bubbledogs has a concept that is unique in London: gourmet hotdogs served with grower champagnes. The dogs and champagne combo was an instant hit and long queues can be seen outside the restaurant on many nights. At the back of Bubbledogs, tucked away behind a curtain that separates it from the noisy dogs, is the Kitchen Table, an intimate space with 19 seats around an open kitchen.

James Knappett received his training at some of UK's most celebrated restaurants, such as Rick Stein's The Seafood restaurant in Padstow and Gordon Ramsay's eponymous restaurant on Royal Hospital Road and Petrus (under Marcus Wareing). After Petrus, James spent a few years abroad working in the kitchens of Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York and Rene Redzepi's Noma in Copenhagen. James re-joined Marcus Wareing's team at The Berkeley in 2009 and quickly became Wareing's head-chef. He left Marcus Wareing in September 2011 and then did a brief stint at The Ledbury. Sandia Chang's CV is equally impressive. She too worked at Per Se, Noma and Marcus Wareing and most recently at Simon Rogan's London pop-up Roganic.

Bubbledogs Kitchen Table serves dinner only (Tuesday till Saturday). Dinner is served in two seatings, one at 6.00pm and one at 7.30pm. The hot dog and champagne bar is open for lunch and dinner. The Kitchen Table serves a daily-changing multiple-course tasting menu for £68. I had dinner at the Kitchen Table with my husband on Friday 3 May and on that night the menu featured 15 courses.

The meal started with a lightly poached Colchester oyster wrapped in a thin sheet of green apple, topped with fresh shiso purple cress and served with a shiso purple cress granita on the side. Wonderfully creamy oyster that combined beautifully with the crisp green apple. Lovely touch of spicy warmth from the fresh shiso purple cress and the elegant and fragrant granita, that had the perfect consistency. 

This was followed by Cod roe from Cornwall, first salt-cured, then oak-smoked and finally turned into a creamy puree served with grated dried scallop roe and homemade bread fried in brown butter. The cod roe puree had fantastic, refined, smokey flavours and a lovely texture, not too smooth. Great texture and flavour from the fried bread too. A wonderfully moreish dish.

The third dish was Chicken wafer, covered with a rosemary mascarpone and bacon jam. Lovely crispy chicken wafer with intense natural chicken flavours. Clever and well-judged use of rosemary in the mascarpone. The bacon jam was delicious and had the perfect touch of sweetness and saltiness. Great balance of flavours.

Next up was Crab - freshly picked white meat and a brown meat cream, baby Jersey Royal potatoes, grapefruit, fresh dill and coriander and a cress salad. Lovely, delicate, white crab meat that combined wonderfully with the grapefruit and the fresh herbs, the grapefruit intensifying the sweetness of the crab. The brown crab meat cream was full of flavour and gave the dish a wonderful rich finish. A harmonious and exciting dish with a variety of flavours and textures; definitely not your average crab dish.

Red mullet was the main ingredient of the next (fifth) course. An excellent piece of red mullet with lovely moist flesh and a nice crispy skin, served with a wonderful bitter-sweet red pepper puree and an intense and nutty garlic puree. Both purees really enhanced the red mullet. Also on the plate was some very flavoursome spiky artichoke, sliced green olive, candied black olive, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some thinly sliced fresh basil. A fabulous dish with the bitters balancing the richness beautifully.

Sixth course, English asparagus. Lovely 'al dente' green asparagus served with a superb, rich and creamy, Parmesan sauce and grated Tuscany truffle. The sauce was made with 36-month old Parmesan which gave it a lovely depth of flavour.

The asparagus was followed by two meat dishes. First a fantastic, well-cooked and rested piece of beef (cap of ribeye), served with a slice of bone marrow and a lovely well-reduced rich sauce. Lovely cut of beef, it had bags of flavour and I really liked the texture. Also on the plate was a wild leaf, flower and herb salad with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Next to arrive was Lamb breast served with dog rose yoghurt, beurre noisette and lovely baby vegetables and leaves. The floral dog rose yoghurt was nice and elegant. A dish with lovely clean and precise flavours, rounded off nicely by the beurre noisette.

Before dessert we were all served an extra (9th) course of homemade pasta with a delicious, meltingly-soft, lamb rump, tomato and mint ragu.

The first of six desserts was Cheese, linseed cracker and honey, but not just any cheese and not just any honey. Award-winning Keens cheddar and fresh honeycomb from the London Honey Company (from beehives in Clapham). The honeycomb was fabulous, very elegant, floral, lightly sweet and a perfect combination with the cheddar.

Next up was a wonderful palate cleanser: fresh mango puree with yoghurt cream, coconut jelly and coconut and lime granita. Equally refreshing were the strawberries macerated in sugar and vanilla, served with vanilla ice cream and fresh verbena leaves and verbena powder.

Beetroot and liquorice were the main ingredients of the next dish. Beetroot cake, beetroot sorbet, liquorice ice cream, liquorice syrup, sour cream ice cream sprinkled with beetroot meringue crumbs and liquorice powder. Both the beetroot cake and sorbet had just the right sweetness. The liquorice ice cream was well-made and had nice and powerful liquorice flavours. A lovely dessert with a great balance between sweetness and freshness.

Fourteenth dish was Birch sap ice cream with birch sap reduction and dry malt powder. Loved the caramel/coffee-like sweetness of the birch sap ice cream. Birch sap delivers a wonderful natural sweetness which one can't achieve with normal sugar. To preserve the flavours, the 58 litres of birch sap which they harvested, were reduced to a mere 400 ml...

The final bite was like a teacake: round biscuit base, sweet mandarin puree and a marshmallow dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with toasted hogweed seeds - gorgeous!

Bubbledogs and The Kitchen Table are two contrasting concepts under one roof but both are quite unique in London and both are very successful. The excellent service record of James Knappett and Sandia Chang clearly shines through. The concept of a Kitchen Table restaurant is still, I believe, relatively new and quite rare; other places I can think of are e.g. Momofuku Ko and Brooklyn Fare in New York (which served James Knappett as an inspiration) and (to an extent) the kitchen counter at restaurant Frantzén in Stockholm.

The dishes at the Kitchen Table are small but always well-conceived, focused and complete and they avoid any unnecessary complexity. The style of cooking is inventive, the execution is flawless; contemporary food, elegantly presented, that delivers on flavour. The choice and sourcing of ingredients is undertaken with creativity and attention. Sustainability is important and Knappett is frugal with nature's offerings; cod roe is normally discarded rather than used for fine dining and birch sap can be harvested without any damage to the tree. There is another dimension too however. The detailed information about the ingredients and their provenance enhances the emotional value of the food and the way the diner relates to it; the impression it leaves, lasts longer. It is not unlike the difference between drinking a bottle of Moët and a bottle of champagne produced by an individual grower on his own domain; the first is nice but anonymous, the second is nice too but has a face and a name.

The kitchen team is young and passionate and lead with a steady hand by James Knappett - who himself may be only 31 years old but is a very accomplished chef. The Kitchen Table has already garnered a lot of (inter)national attention and when chef Thomas Keller had dined at the Kitchen Table in 2012, he proclaimed to have had his best meal of the year there. Service is very attentive and knowledgeable and the atmosphere is very intimate. It is almost like being at a private dinner party chez Knappett and Chang but with some 300 hot dogs being consumed every evening at the other side of the curtain. There is no doubt that a Michelin star will be forthcoming and, with time, it may not be limited to that.

Bubbledogs on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Posted 17-05-2013


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