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The Shortmarket Club

The Shortmarket Club
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Cost
R250 per person
Ambience
Bar scene, Groups
Food
Contemporary fare, Modern
Payment
Mastercard, Visa
Corkage
R60

Critic's review

Kate Wilson

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.

Food
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.

Drinks
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.

Service
This is exceptional and goes some way towards justifying the prices. You get what you pay for and at Shortmarket you get spoiled rotten.

Ambience
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.

Best for...
very special occasions and to impress out-of-town guests who are likely to flash their dollars/Sterling.

(2018)

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

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  • Tudor Caradoc-Davies

    Food
    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.

    Drinks
    An interesting selection of wines that includes several rising boutique winemakers, but it’s on the pricey side.

    Service
    Strong. Waiters are attentive, available and fast.

    Ambience
    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.

    And…
    They often have great prix fixe lunch specials.

    (October 2017)

    Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.

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User reviews

  • Highly underwhelmed by the food and the service we experienced. We were made to feel that we should hurry our evening and I was not blown away by the food. The stater ravioli was delicious. The main meal of fish which was bream was average and for the price totally under rated. I felt like some cheese and was told I could not order a single portion. When I go out to eat and feel like something on the menu I would expect to be able to order what i feel like eating....I am paying for it after all. Would definitely not return.
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  • Don't Be a Dick is the name of the establishment next to the entrance of The Shortmarket Club and that's almost how one feels when criticising anything attached to the brilliant Luke Dale-Roberts. Having been to The Test Kitchen before, we arrived with high expectations, but left fairly disappointed. Visit was in Dec 2018 We were 4 people and decided on the tasting menu, but tried some oysters for starters. Fresh, succulent, lovely! The various tasting menu servings differed drastically in portion size, which was disappointing. Very average tasting food, without much flavor or complexity. Please remove the baked ricotta in fig leaf from any menu; it was very bitter. The main dish, the lamb, was not properly trimmed with pieces of excess fat. The waiter could not pour/sell water quickly enough without asking. All in all, a 3-4/10 experience.
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  • Beautiful evening, Mathew and the Oyster Trolley with Gin service reminded me of dinner at Sardi’s New York and Ciro’s in the 1960’s owned by Joe Kentridge in Johannesburg
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  • On saturday May 12 we had looked forward to end our 2 week trip to South Africa with a delicious dinner at Shortmarket Club. We know from previous visits that the food and service is not only delicious but with attention to detail, and impeccable. Indeed it is what you expect from a restaurant, which required reservation months in advance as well as confirmation by credit card. So much greater the disappointment when we realised the restaurant had accepted to host a large birthday party also in the main room. Noise level was in the end not at all what you would expect from the image Shortmarket Club wants to convey - or anywhere for that matter. And the service at our small table - only (!) 2 persons - got inattentive and stressed. The service and ambiance let the food down. I dont know if this is a typical saturday evening in Cape Town - large, noisy groups even in the restaurants trying to focus on the food. But it was the case for us that saturday in Shortmarket Club. In the end staff tried to compensate, but they were clearly not ready to ask the party to calm down. In our view they should never had accepted our reservation. Since we were only 2 persons conversation between us was in the end impossible. I will not go back - too many other good places to even bother. And to you: stay away saturdays unless you are also a group.
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  • Amazing!!!!
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  • Awsome
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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • WiFi

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