By Lauren Jade Hill
Having earned two Michelin stars, apprenticed in restaurants such as Le Gavroche, and worked under revered chefs including Marco Pierre White, Adam Simmonds has built up quite a repertoire of expertise. His next goal is to open up his own restaurant named Simmonds in London, so in preparation for this upcoming challenge, the chef has launched the experimental pop up restaurant, the Test Kitchen, in the heart of Soho.
Located on thriving Frith Street—on the former site of Barrafina—the Test Kitchen gives Simmonds and his team the opportunity to gauge diners’ reactions as they experiment with flavor combinations and culinary techniques. With this in mind, the menu evolves continually, not only according to the produce throughout the season, but also by taking heed of people’s reactions.
Dining here is a casual affair, with just 23 seats spanning the length of a counter facing into the open kitchen. This closeness to Adam Simmonds and his team makes the dining experience one of dynamism and interaction; while the wait-staff are on hand, it’s often the chefs who bring dishes over with their explanation of what they’ve prepared.
The menu here is separated into fish, meat and vegetable plates, and at the time of my visit includes sublime ingredient combinations such as rock oyster and Oscietra caviar with cucumber and kiwi, pheasant egg with kohlrabi, girolles and truffle, and salt baked swede with blackberries, cocoa nibs and goat’s cheese.
Of these, it’s the salt baked swede that I’m most intrigued by; the swede is rich and permeated with spices, complemented by a layer of blackberry and cocoa puree along with grated goat’s cheese. The final flourish is a creamy brown butter sauce. This came served alongside a dish of buttery white asparagus spears with hollowed-out Linzer potatoes, a light sauce of whey with a smattering of caviar, scattered green leaves and delicate potato crisps.
The cod then comes appealingly plated with purple flowers scattered on top, the bright green of broad beans and wild garlic leaves, and morels that have soaked up all the flavors permeated throughout the dish. While this cod exhibits British culinary influence, the poached scallops show the inspiration Simmonds takes from Japanese cuisine. Thinly sliced, these scallops come served in an umami dashi broth, with small cubes of nashi pear, seaweed and sesame seeds creating contrasting textures.
From the meat dishes, it’s the lamb that stands out most; pink in the middle and seared on the outside, succulent cuts are complemented by crisply fried salsify, pickled shallots and a thin veil of milk skin. But the quail dish is equally as flavorful, with a delicate layer of lardo laid over the rich meat, which is placed on a bed of sliced English asparagus and sunflower seeds in jus.
The desserts are no less inspired; the combination of Garigette strawberries, red pepper and basil seeds is particularly successful, as each ingredient is represented imaginatively through surprising elements such as a basil panna cotta and olive powder. Each dish throughout the meal can be paired with wine from a tightly curated list of labels.
With the promise of an ever-changing menu, this is just a glimpse into what you can encounter here. But with the chef’s pursuit to continually refine the dishes he’s presenting, diners can be sure their meal will be emblematic of this culinary journey.