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.
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The Shortmarket Club’s three-course prix fixe winter lunch menu returns once more this winter. Priced at R280 per person, or R380 per person including a carafe of wine, it is available at lunchtime from Mondays to Saturdays until 30 September.