Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favourite) restaurants.
In this case, we’re looking at the new-look Kitchen Table, the highly anticipated return from chef James Knappett and front-of-house phenom Sandia Chang. Having won a second Michelin star in 2018, the renowned chef’s counter has recently undergone an extensive renovation, reopening in July with a entirely new interior, setup, and tasting menu. Here’s everything you need to know about their exciting new restaurant.
The restaurant looks and feels entirely new, with the new bar offering an additional dimension to the overall experience.
Back when it opened, taking a friend to the original Kitchen Table was a flex – the hushed chef’s counter was accessed through a heavy-set curtain behind Chang’s buzzing (and incredibly popular) Champagne-and-hotdogs concept, Bubbledogs. The new setup leans into the fact that Kitchen Table has a gravitational pull all its own, and puts that experience front and centre.
Today, the former Bubbledogs space has been converted into a sleek, understated cocktail bar for guests to relax in before their seating at Kitchen Table, in effect creating a single, seamless experience.
“I always had a vision of Kitchen Table as one unified space and had a palette in mind for how I wanted it to look,” Knappett says. “Covid actually enabled us to make that image a reality. When we first opened Kitchen Table, we were the first to be operating the chef’s table/counter dining offering, but we felt that had run its course and there were other restaurants doing the same thing.”
At the main kitchen counter, diners are ensconced in bespoke navy leather chairs around a u-shaped English oak-topped counter. The new design is heavily influenced by Japanese minimalism, with a luxurious, contemporary feel; above, oak timber ‘fins’ create an atmospheric wave effect, while soft lighting highlights each course on the daily changing menu. On one wall, Knappett has preserved the original restaurant’s chalkboards, adorned with the signatures of his chef peers past and present.
With Two Michelin Stars, James Knappett’s Cooking Is Better Than Ever.
As the world of fine dining evolves, the role of farmers and producers has been thrust to the fore more than ever, and Knappett is quick to acknowledge that relationship – even amidst a global pandemic.
“We’re lucky that we’ve been able to continue working with the same suppliers and producers, even during lockdown,” he says. “Over the last year, it felt like we were helping each other get through by maintaining that relationship.”
That diligence paid off; as part of the restaurant’s tasting menu, some of Britain’s finest produce transforms into a series of sublime plates in his hands. Early highlights have included Cornish spring lamb slowly barbecued in its own fat, with a garden mint and gem salad, embellished with Minus 8 vinegar and crème fraîche; or a dish of glazed Cornish blue lobster with pickled beach roses and Tahitian vanilla brown butter. Delicate pastry work is on display too, with courses like a beautiful onion tarte tatin with goat’s cheese from Sinodun Hill.
For dessert, expect spectacular dishes like strawberries with meadowsweet ice cream, or black pepper burnt meringue. The price tag for dinner – £250 for up to 20 courses – befits its two-star calibre, and makes it worthy of a special occasion or, simply, to experience what is still London’s best chef’s counter.
Sandia Chang’s Champagne List Is Up There With London’s Finest.
An alum of New York’s three-star Per Se (where she and Knappett met), Chang’s warm, precise service has always made guests feel welcome and relaxed. But it’s her relationships with some of France’s finest Champagne producers and discerning ability to curate a list that stands out.
Her extensive list showcases some of the rarest and most exciting Grower Champagnes from the region’s distinguished producers, including Georges Laval ‘Les Longues Violes’ and Benoit Dehu ‘Cuvée La Pythie’, from a single barrel selection of wine taken from the Pinot Meunier of La Rue des Noyers. Other highlights include Cédric Bouchard’s 2013 Côte de Bechalin, a rich and textural Blanc de Noirs with an impressive mid-palate and finish.
“Throughout the years of working closely with producers in Champagne, we’re very lucky to be importing ourselves, allowing us to have access to some small allocations,” Chang explains. “We’re excited to showcase some great producers with rare cuvées, including Dhondt-Grellet, Roses de Jeanne, David Léclapart & Georges Laval.”
Guests will also be able to take a bottle home through Chang’s very own online store, bubbleshop.
Despite the changes – and the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary next year – the owners’ approach to hospitality remains as uncompromising as ever.
“We’ve definitely matured through the years of operating our business,” Chang says. “We’ve learned to not micromanage and allow our staff to take ownership. We’ve also both learned to work better together; still challenging each other but respecting each other’s strengths and contribution to the team effort.”
For Knappett, finding their focus and deciding on the path that they wanted to be on was crucial. That said, “my approach hasn’t changed,” he says. “I try to always keep my head down and stay true to my own journey rather than worry what everyone else is doing.”
Chang has the final word: “We have always remained true to what we always believed in – regardless of how many stars we have. Whether it’s a hot dog or a 14-course tasting menu, we will always serve the best and give our best to our guests and staff.”