The team that brought Cape Town iconic restaurants like The Test Kitchen and The Shortmarket Club is back once more to shake up the city’s dining scene. Wesley Randles and Simon Widdison, in partnership with the inimitable Luke Dale-Roberts, have teamed up again to open The Commissary, a low-key, small-plates affair that sits right next to its big sister, The Shortmarket Club. Jess Spiro nabbed a spot at the bar on their second night of trade to see what all the fuss was about.
Cost: Between R45 and R85 per plate
Food type: Small plates with bold, punchy flavours
Best for: Spontaneous, fuss-free date nights
Star rating: Food and drinks: 5; Service: 4; Ambience: 5
While The Commissary’s concept seems to be the antithesis of its elder sibling, The Shortmarket Club, the food is what reminds you that you’re eating at an LDR-associated restaurant. There are no reservations, and diners are seated on a first-come, first-served basis. Once you’re seated, the presented menu is small yet interesting, with a handful of plates intended to be shared. The plates are well-priced, meaning you’re easily able to order one of everything.
Right off the bat, the flavours are unabashed and in-your-face, starting with oysters with a bracingly spicy nahm jim sauce and tuna tataki with a yuzu, peach and peanut dressing. Moving on to the Jason sourdough flatbread, made with Jason Lilley’s famed sourdough served alongside a smoky baba ghanoush and salsa macha. It’s perfect for tearing and sharing in between the rest of the heat-packed dishes. The unexpected scene-stealer, however, has to be the wedge salad, with its creamy gorgonzola dressing and smoked pecans atop iceberg lettuce. It’s another welcome, cooling pause in the meal.
The pork katsu slider (crumbed and deep-fried pork cutlet) is served on a mini potato bun, alongside a Korean barbecue sauce and shredded cabbage for further crunch. Long-standing The Pot Luck Club fans will happily rejoice at the addition of Korean-fried chicken wings – made famous when Randles was head chef there. Perfectly paired with miso mayo, the wings are super crispy and have funky spice coming from the kimchi marinade. Another iconic Randles dish is the SMC octopus slider, where the crispy panko-crumbed octopus –known and loved at The Shortmarket Club – is dressed down in a steamed bun and drenched in a bright mango atchar and tamarind dressing. The Massaman-style lamb roti, featuring a slow-cooked lamb, is meltingly soft and accompanied by a delicate roti and fresh herb salad.
If you think you don’t have space for dessert, pause for a minute and make space – Juliet Randles’s sweets are not to be missed. The ‘Nice Cream’ is made via liquid nitrogen and a stand mixer, and pairs perfectly with her warm and gooey white-chocolate and cherry cookie.
With Simon Widdison taking care of the wine list, you can expect a varied offering of interesting local wines at reasonable pricing. If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful glass of rosé or an all out bottle of red, this list has you covered. Similarly, there’s a neat curation of local beers and a fun cocktail menu.
Wesley and his team run a tight ship. The food comes out fast and the service keeps up with it.
The Commissary is nothing like you’ve seen before. There are no reservations. You enter the space through a graffitied hallway before you sit down at communal tables to eat off plastic and enamel plates, and mess hall-style trays. Multi-coloured lights and splashes of spray paint encourage you to top up your drink and settle in for a jol.
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A ‘first taste’ is a review conducted in the first couple of weeks after a restaurant’s opening, when it is expected that the chefs and staff will still be finding their feet.