A First Look at The Shortmarket Club
Potentially one of the most anticipated restaurants to open this year in Cape Town, The Shortmarket Club has opened its doors. The latest Luke Dale-Roberts venture is a partnership with his wife, Sandalene, head chef Wesley Randles and manager-extraordinaire Simon Widdison. While a part of the LDR empire, Shortmarket is a completely different kettle of fish, settling into a spot on cool and casual Shortmarket Street, neighbouring Outrage of Modesty and House of Machines. It joins a group of restaurants on Bree Street embracing an altogether new style of dining, one where the vibe is slightly more casual but the food is some of the best the country has seen. Bree Street and the surrounds is now a food mecca, with Chef’s Warehouse, ASH and Shortmarket Club offering momentous, special occasion meals (if that’s what you’re after) in a pared-down, less stuffy environment.
The interior of Shortmarket somewhat takes your breath away. Its unimposing exterior, leads you down a moody hallway and upstairs, which opens into the high-ceilinged bar area. The walls are a lush, textured raspberry colour and the room is softly lit with vintage military lamps sourced by Sandalene. The vibrant walls are grounded by the industrial, metal accents of a bronze pig’s head and copper light fixtures. The dining room is almost cathedral-like in its arching height, yet somehow retains warmth and cosiness thanks to delicate blue leather couches and booths. It is here, that we sat for a special and intimate set three course dinner with close friends of the Shortmarket team.
The menu put together was a snapshot of what diners can expect of the food. It kicked off with grass-fed beef carpaccio, goat ricotta, miso cured egg yolk, tomato sherry dashi and Parmesan and burnt onion powder. It’s hard to repurpose a classic succesfully, almost like trying to reinvent the wheel but this dish was truly something special. The goat ricotta elevated it all, swiped onto the plate you got a mouthful of it with each bite and it was creamy without being overly rich. The egg yolk was a punch of umami, perfectly accompanying the ribbons of beef. The dashi added a necessary acidity, and the powder offered a sweet earthiness. Once the dish was done, it was hard not to scrape the plate for every last morsel of that ricotta.
For the main course, there was kingklip, served with a roasted masala sauce, burnt gem lettuce and spekboom and quinoa salsa. Firstly, properly cooked fish is always a god send in restaurants and, goodness, was this cooked perfectly. The accompanying masala sauce was complex in spices but not too much for the robust fish to handle, complete with earthiness, sweetness, heat and acidity. The complementary elements had the potential to be lost on the plate, but weren’t. The lettuce was crisp, and the quinoa was toothsome, in a good way. To round off the stellar main course were roast potatoes, with a glass-like exterior, savory churros and simple steamed broccoli.
If you think that desserts were an afterthought, you’re wrong. The choice between classic lemon tart and the famous Shortmarket cheese trolley was a difficult one. One that I couldn’t make and had both. The lemon tart, reportedly an old Marco Pierre White recipe, is the thing that dreams are made of. Perfectly tart, with a fine caramelised sugar topping just waiting to be shattered. The cheeses, all local, were delicious and came paired with raw honeycomb and super thin croutes. A perfect ending to a perfect meal.
As far as preconceived notions go, you know you’re in for a good meal at any of Luke’s restaurants and Shortmarket is no different. It delivers on every single flavour in every single dish. What is different about Shortmarket is its overall atmosphere. It is familiar food, food that you will recognise not only from Test Kitchen and Pot Luck Club, but even food from your childhood, maybe special dishes that your parents used to eat on nights out. It is old-world and momentous and yet still low-key, comfortable. The Shortmarket Club is now open for reservations, and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner until 11, when the kitchen closes. Whatever you need, be it a stiff drink or a hearty meal, they’ve got it handled. Welcome to the neighbourhood, Shortmarket, we’re overjoyed to have another exciting restaurant to visit.
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