Cape Town has a lot to be smug about – there’s Table Mountain, the smooth, sandy beaches, award-winning winelands on our stoep and…Luke Dale-Roberts. With The Test Kitchen ranked 22nd in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Luke is showing no signs of slowing down and recently joined forces with Sandalene Dale-Roberts, Simon Widdison and Wesley Randles to dish up Cape Town’s latest hot addition – The Shortmarket Club.
‘The Club’ is a restaurant concept conceived by the quartet to fill a gap in the Cape Town food scene – uncompromising silver service without any of the stuffiness. Designed by Sandalene of Miyabi Bespoke Chairs, the bar’s dark wood details and leather covered tables bring about a 1920s take on an opulent gentleman’s cigar lounge. The theme continues to bloom in the dining area with plush private booth seating dimly lit beneath vintage pendant lights – it harks back to that Parisian member’s only club where Josephine Baker performed the ‘Danse Sauvage‘ wearing a set of pearls and that famous banana skirt (google it!).
The décor’s imaginative edge is further reinforced by artist Mark Rautenbach’s awe-striking upcycled ‘Butterfly’ installation and, to put the cherry on the proverbial cake, this brimming imagination also extends to the kitchen, which churns out haute cuisine culinary creations (without any of the fuss) at the hands of talented young chef Randles.
After successfully running Luke’s The Pot Luck Club, Simon and Wesley make for a dynamic duo of world-class proportions. Simon ensures the front of house is run like a finely tuned orchestra with a compliment of friendly and knowledgeable staff. To amuse your palate and seduce your senses, chef Randles conjures up a succession of intricate dishes with his clever cooking and dexterous take on simple ingredients.
The Shortmarket Club is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so the epicurean hedonist in me went ahead and tried all three dining experiences in a single day, naturally. Each dish was notable for something unique, thus I’ve detailed what thoughts or memories each dish evokes along with Chef-Proprietor Wesley Randles’s commentary on my feedback of each dish.
Seth: The double espresso (Origin Coffee) was brilliant. I normally would have a flat-white at this time of the day, but The Shortmarket Club doesn’t offer alternative milk.
Seth: If miso & hazelnut hollandaise with raw compressed wild mushrooms, burnt Parmesan, porcini hazelnut powder and sweet pickled porcini sherry pure doesn’t spell haute cuisine I don’t know what does.
Wesley: The asparagus dish is pure earthy umami.
Grass-fed beef carpaccio
Seth: What I love the most about this dish is that before tasting it I didn’t know how these ingredients would come together, I expected a saltiness from the onion and parmesan powder and a richness from the miso-cured egg yolk, but instead all these ingredients meld together to showcase the tantalising taste of the raw beef.
Wesley: The Carpaccio is a celebration of Spier’s farmer Angus’s excellent beef. The cows as well as the chickens graze from the same field.
Seth: The braaied Karoo lamb rump with butter-roasted fennel is the dark horse of the dishes. Looks like a simple dish, but is jam-packed with toe-curling flavour.
Wesley: Yeah, the lamb is a crowd-pleaser, simple but delicious, served with a side of our barrel-aged sherry vinegar mint jelly.
Seth: True to Wesley’s philosophy to showcase local tastes, the unexpected flavour explosion in this Crispy Octopus dish topped with sesame tamarind dressing and bonito flakes comes courtesy of the spicy green mango atchar.
Wesley: The octopus comes from Kalk Bay and is my Cape Malay twist on a Japanese classic.
Chestnut and fynbos Petit Poussin
Seth: Anyone who’s ever tasted chef Daniel Humm’s, of Eleven Madison Park (currently ranked best restaurant in USA), stuffed roast chicken at his The NoMad Restautant in New York will be happy to know there’s something of equal grandeur here that doesn’t require a cross Atlantic flight.
Wesley: The baby chicken is stuffed with chestnuts and fynbos, once roasted we smoke it tableside over chestnut husks.
Oysters & dhaltjies
Seth: I love that a fine dining place is serving dhaltjies and sticking to their authentic taste.
Wesley: The oysters are served with Tigers Milk, which in itself is also an aphrodisiac. The dhaltjies are also a nod to Cape flavours; we make them with a Bo-Kaap blend of roasted masala, which is hand blended for us.
Seth: it’s a warm, gooey yet fluffy soufflé so it’s not rich – perfect for a frosty winter’s day, or a cool autumn eve, or maybe all seasons.
Wesley: Everyone loves it, but you have to come back to try the other desserts!
ABOUT SETH SHEZI: Seth is a business analyst by day and a lifestyle strategist in his down time. He’s always the most dapper person in the room and is known around Cape Town for his Instagram account, which is filled with breathtaking images of South Africa’s finest establishments. Follow him on Instagram.
Read Seth’s full review of The Shortmarket Club in HL’s August 2016 Destination issue.