There used to be times when hot restaurants were the ones with the best views… for example the restaurant Le Jules Verne on top of the Eiffel Tower, The Windows of the World, Boathouse in Central Park…. It was all about enjoying the view outside the restaurant location. I have to say having a nice view outside is always great, similar concept of eating in a “terrazas” in Spain, where you sit outside to eat some tapas, do people watching and even if you want enjoy cigarette after a “Pacharan”
Views have been always a part of the dinning experience, but lately these views have turn their back to external landscapes to focus diners attention to the kitchen and their chefs. This year this has become one of the trends in New York restaurant scene, with the opening of
Atera (** ) and Blanca at Roberta’s (*), along with previous years pioneers like Brooklyn Fare (***), Momofuku KO(**) and one of the first ones Elise & I went together: Degustation ( this one will be always very special for us ). This is without considering all the Sushi chefs table that have been around for a while in NYC and Japan. Even outside NYC one of our best meals of the year were in a chefs counter table in Paris at Agape Substance.
From business perspective these chefs counter tables makes a lot of sense, restaurants can cut cost on service, and product as all the counter will be eating the same things. The fix price of the menu helps restaurants to forecast what their customers will spend in their visits and have a more realistic financial plan for what they can spend in ingredients etc. And what is more important it generates engagement in your customer as they feel close to the process, we all become cooks for a day in our mind!
& kitchen table (KT), is the London interpretation of this chefs counter table trend and believe it or not what a great interpretation!. The KT is located in the back of of one of the hottest places in London, Bubbledogs a bar where hotdogs and champagne is served (and not any type of champagne…the good stuff); a fun paradox that I can’t believe I have not see it yet in Williamsburg, it would be and INSTANT WIN.
Bubbledogs is owned by a cute Husband-and-wife team, the perfect combination of a talented chef: James Knappett & the perfect host/sommelier: Sandia Chang. Sandia and James have a NYC background and an incredible resume that includes Per Se, along with other famous restaurants outside The City like Noma, Roganic and The Berkeley.
Given all the hype, we arrived to the restaurant with high expectations. After jumping over a line of around 50 people waiting for the front bar for the amazing selection of Champagnes and hotdogs, we finally made it to the end of the bar, where we were surprised by the hostess who opened a curtain and bang! here it was, the Kitchen table! I love surprises like this!
We really enjoyed our dinner, you can definitely tell the history behind each dish and the love and care that come from the cooks. But if there is one thing that makes this place unique is the homey and intimate feeling of being close the cooks and the host. It is feeling similar to one you get when eating a home cooked tasting menu by your mom who just so happens to be a stellar chef. (a scenario that is not very likely) This intimate and cozy feeling is something that is very hard achieve, most other chefs tables there is a bit more tension and pressure coming from the kitchen. At & there is a really nice vibe: the cooks are constantly joking around with one another while James simultaneously coaches them. In addition to the playfulness in the kitchen there is also a great sense of pride that exudes from the chefs as they prepare and present you their creations. This de-dramatization of the fine dinning experience is what makes & the great place it is.
The & at the bubbledogs menu is pre-fix that changes daily due. It is a product oriented menu with a strong emphasis on precise techniques. As far as the food goes…we really enjoyed the Lobster and the Beef. I could be writing for 2 or 3 more hours about this place but I think there is no better way to describe the place and it’s food other than with the pictures I took that night:
Overall a MUST go for foodies visiting London and if you can’t make it to be Kitchen table, there is no other better way to spend the evening than with hotdogs and one of the finest Champagnes, that is if you don’t mind waiting in line…
&: Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs
Sandia Chang and James Knappett
70 Charlotte Street,
Fitzrovia, London, W1T 4QG. Website or +44-20- 7637-7770.