Husband and wife James Knappett and Sandia Chang run Kitchen Table in Fitzrovia, where they have created an intimate dining experience for guests to interact with the chefs through a theatre-style kitchen. Awarded a second Michelin star in 2018, the menu takes inspiration from the UK seasons and uses the very best ingredients to formulate fresh, new plates every evening. Mirroring the kitchen’s ethos, the accompanying beverages complement the food by including locally sourced seasonal ingredients.
Brummell spoke to James and Sandia to discuss their passions and successes:
What can diners expect from Kitchen Table?
JK: An immersive, interactive dining experience – with super-seasonal cooking that showcases a large array of food, flavours and techniques.
SC: A really fun, personal, warm dining experience where we welcome you into our home and serve and feed you the very best.
What were your goals for Kitchen Table when you reopened in 2021?
JK: To offer an even more professional and high-end experience, also doing so through the addition of a bar area. Guests are welcomed there before their meal, and it’s a space to relax afterwards.
SC: We wanted to focus on just Kitchen Table and provide our guests with a more complete dining experience.
Kitchen Table offers diners “kitchen theatre”. Can you explain this concept and why you were inspired to choose this layout for your restaurant?
JK: The main reason to design the restaurant in this way was to showcase the work that goes into the dishes, and to give our chefs the opportunity to convey the passion behind each dish. We start prepping from 8am, and seeing the food being enjoyed in real-time is made possible throughout our setup. It’s like cooking at home: you don’t prepare a meal for friends and family and then stay in a separate room while they eat it. This way, we’re able to really explain our work.
SC: We often find that when we have dinner parties, the kitchen is usually where everyone gathers. The kitchen is the heart of our home. We wanted to have a restaurant where it would feel like we’ve invited you to our dinner party and you can spend the evening chatting and eating in our kitchen.
The menu is ever-changing. Where do you find inspiration for your dishes?
JK: The seasons provide a key source of inspiration, and I’m really passionate about the four seasons we have here in the UK. These dictate what we have to use – for example, cobnuts and figs are available now, so this makes me create something with them.
At Kitchen Table the wine list is extensive. How do you curate the perfect beverage selection to complement the dishes?
SC: I’ve been working with James now for almost 20 years and I know his food and flavours very well. The wine list is curated with wines that fit his food, and also what we like to drink. Wines that are picked also fit our ethos of seeking out smaller and more artisanal producers that believe in keeping true to purity of flavours and what nature intends.
Kitchen Table has a two Michelin-star rating – an honour only 17 restaurants in London have received. What do you think contributed to this success?
JK: Never stopping, always being driven to be better and having a great team around us. It’s the idea of wanting to be better than the day before.
SC: Consistency. Consistency in standards, in passion, in drive, in energy and in dedication.
Who is your role model and how have they influenced you in your work?
JK: My mum and my dad, who taught me to just work hard – it’s that simple. They instilled the sense that if you want something, then go and get it. A hard work ethic is the key to whatever you want to be in the world, and the reason I am where I am.
SC: Thomas Keller. The idea of striving for perfection has never stopped since the day I stepped through the doors at Per Se in NYC. Often, when I’m stuck, I will ask myself, “what would Chef Keller do”?
What do you think of the London restaurant scene?
JK: The London restaurant scene is one of the best (if not the best) in the world, especially with the array of cuisines and concepts that we have in the city right now. It just keeps getting better and better.
SC: I think over the past 10 years, the London restaurant scene has really changed. Not only have the chefs and restaurateurs travelled and learned from around the world to bring new ideas to our dining scene, the guests have also travelled and are eating out with a much more open-minded approach.
What is your favourite restaurant in the world and why?
JK: My best meal was at Alinea in Chicago. I dined here in 2011 before social media became a big thing, and it was really special because everything I ate was a new experience and something I hadn’t seen before. Everything, from the food to the glassware and plateware, was really dynamic. I don’t think the conditions for that could be recreated these days, as social media gives you an insight on what to expect from most restaurant experiences. As for my best restaurant, that would be The French Laundry – a pinnacle led by Chef Keller, who made a world for us to aspire to.
SC: Asador Etxebarri, in the Basque Country. The setting is stunning, and the food is simple but yet so creative and so in tune with seasonality and quality. There is no fuss with service and the wine list is full of great treasures.
What are your biggest passions outside of food and drink?
JK: Football (Arsenal!) and my family. Spending time with my two young kids and forever experiencing new things with them – that’s the most fun I have.
SC: Being a good mother.
Kitchen Table, 70 Charlotte Street, London W1T 4QG; kitchentablelondon.co.uk