Luke Dale-Roberts and Wes Randles’ venture post Pot Luck Club made it to number 8 on the EatOut top 10 list in 2017, after only a year, and it’s still one of Cape Town’s hottest tickets if you want to feel like you’ve flown to New York for the evening to hang with the ghost of Dorothy Parker and forget about your bond repayments.
Personally, I feel the food has lost a little of the boldness of the early dishes – beef carpaccio and miso-cured egg yolk, chestnut-smoked poussin, even the famed potato churros are no more.
Instead, starters like the the burnt lemon celeriac and the Cape Malay crispy octopus with mango, masala-spiked panko crumbs and bonito flakes seemed a little overworked and monochrome on the plate. In contrast, the crispy pig cheek on red endive with honey, smoked nuts and gorgonzola is a typical Wes Randles dish – a brave and unapologetic combination of sweet and salty, crispy fat and bitter notes, that instantly transports you to what Scientists have dubbed the “bliss point”.
The main courses were also a little hit and miss. The lamb with ras el hanout carrot, harissa, chermoula and labneh is good, but without the precision of flavours you would expect at this level. The Springbok is more successful, complimented with a genius Caperitif quince jus, Jerusalem artichokes, smoked bone marrow and fresh porcini, but the dish could have done with a smidgen more of all of the accompaniments to see the Springbok through.
The stand-out main course is the special order for two, aged rib-eye on the bone, as much for the theatrics of having it set alight in front of you as for the flavour. It is as flamboyant a dish as you can get and can apparently be served with Wes’ famous café au lait sauce, if you have a defibrillator handy.
The desserts bear more of the Wes signature, a chocolate fondant with peanut butter cookie, malt foam and popcorn ice-cream, and what was perhaps the best dish of the entire meal – a cracking oak-smoked crème brulée with lavender and Mozzarella, which was fragant, milky and very very hard to share.
The wine list is as impressive and dramatic as Sandalene Dale-Roberts fabulous interior design, with prices to match. The selection is considered and exciting, but the mark-ups are eye-watering on top of the well-above-average food pricing.
This is exceptional and goes some way towards justifying the prices. You get what you pay for and at Shortmarket you get spoiled rotten.
The atmosphere alone is worth the splurge. Part Algonquin Round Table, part Speakeasy Members Club, climbing the narrow stairs is literally like taking a rabbit hole to an alternate time and place with cocktails, décor and conversation to match.
very special occasions and to impress out-of-town guests who are likely to flash their dollars/Sterling.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Razzmatazz, that’s what comes through at The Shortmarket Club. Judging from the obscure entrance and skinny stairs, it has the feel of a closed members’ club. That feel continues into the décor of the bar area and the main dining room with its high ceilings, comfortable booths and smart waiters. Armed with blow torches for caramelising desserts and trolleys for showing off trays of meat, the service is slick and friendly.
The restaurant is run by chef Luke Dale-Roberts, with right-hand man Wesley Randles manning the kitchen.
We start with the grass-fed beef tartare and the crispy pig cheek. The tartare (cavelo nero pesto, celeriac dashi and frozen parmesan) is what I like in a tartare, a statement of the chef’s taste as opposed to the DIY approach to tartare, which often makes you feel like you are paying to make your own dish. The crispy pig cheek, with pickled endive and an umami-soaked XO-braised quinoa is similarly satisfying, bringing flesh, fat and crackling together with sweet-and-sour lashings.
For mains, ‘The pasta dish’ (with grass-fed oxtail ragù, fennel done three ways, burnt butter and parmesan) is both visually exciting and a gustatory deep dive. A great big flap of pasta with unctuous toppings, it’s absolutely outstanding. Instead of one of the great-looking cuts of meat being displayed on trays, we opt for the roasted artichoke with a hazelnut, mint and lentil dressing, aged balsamic, celeriac, labneh and goats cheese. A rich, woody and earthy combination of flavours, it feels just as decadent as ordering the aged rib-eye.
Dessert comes in the form of a surprisingly delicate ‘For the love of baked cream’, a lavender-and-mozzarella crème brûlée. There’s also the indulgent chocolate fondant, made with 80% Valrhona chocolate, popcorn ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, cream of burnt caramel and hazelnut.
From the plates to the platters, the celebration and elevation of seemingly simple dishes like artichokes or pasta, to headline dishes, The Shortmarket Club takes you on a decadent spin.
An interesting selection of wines that includes several rising boutique winemakers, but it’s on the pricey side.
Strong. Waiters are attentive, available and fast.
There’s no shortage of ambience. The hidden stairwell, the ritzy bar, the open kitchen, the expansive dining room, the wall of butterflies – this is where jet setters in the 50s would come to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll enter to the sound of a big band brass section and some stomping heavyweight percussion, eat to the tempo of a snare drum, and stumble out on the last triumphant peal of a trumpet solo.
They often have great prix fixe lunch specials.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.