Behind The Scenes at The Shortmarket Club

Words: Jess Spiro

Wesley Randles is no stranger to opening a restaurant, he’s been around this block a few times during his time with Luke Dale-Roberts. He was part of the core team that put The Test Kitchen together, then moved on to opening the original Pot Luck Club next door before then moving it to the top floor of the silo at The Biscuit Mill, and he was there when Naturalis opened. He’s now spearheading the fifth establishment under the Luke Dale-Roberts’ umbrella, The Shortmarket Club, and while he’s a seasoned professional at opening new restaurants, putting fresh menus together and then expediting them, he’s definitely taken on a new animal with this latest offering.

Built in a reclaimed heritage building in what housed the previous Platinum Lounge, Shortmarket Club is setting an altogether different tone for the dining scene in Cape Town. The overall feeling is a nod to the dining style of times gone by, it’s classic and old school while still retaining a certain air of glamour. The decor echoes this and is reminiscent of an old-world New York.
The Shortmarket Club
It starts with the bar area, with a view of the open kitchen, where guests will be able to enjoy a pre-dinner drink surrounded by woodwork panels designed by artist Pete Eastman and a gorgeous checkered floor that is going to be filled with small tables. The main dining room is a sight to behold even while still in the construction stage. Perfect natural light cascades onto soft leather banquettes, and it’s already striking, but it’s bound to be even more impressive once the copper light fittings and stretched leather tables are in. Most of the decor dotted around the room is vintage– the lights above the pass are military lamps from The Second World War– found at various junk shops around the city. The door dividing the bar and the dining room is from Argentina’; the 1900s style framework has been reworked with stained glass made by local designer, Anika van der Merwe.

The main aesthetic feature of the room however is wall of framed, paper cut out butterflies. The paper used for these butterflies? Old, personal documents pertaining to the history of Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club.

There are floor plans, order forms even faded pictures, and they come together to  create an intimate and striking piece of art. Luke’s wife, Sandalene, has been the creative force behind the restaurant, helping Wes put the beautiful space together, and the style really is unique.
The Shortmarket Club

At the end of the day, however, we’re really here for the food, and the menu they’ve put together is nothing you would expect from the LDR team.

In short, it’s a classic, old-world menu that’s been turned on its head. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu will include classic dishes, quietly and expertly refreshed. Expect to start the day with boiled eggs and soldiers, made from a shiitake brioche, a simple Arnold Bennett (a fluffy omelette made with house-smoked fish, hollandaise and cheese) and housemade quinoa granola served with seasonal fruit and buffalo yoghurt. Lunch could be anything from Saldanha Bay oysters, served either straight up with a mignonette or with a spicy tiger’s milk or Vietnamese dressing, to a satisfying and hearty soup du jour, to fresh Mussels in a chardonnay and ham hock broth, dotted with poached oysters.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to dinner, starting with a dedicated grill section with a choice of either a straightforward ribeye or fillet served with either bearnaise or that iconic café au lait sauce. For the first time in a Luke Dale-Roberts restaurant, there will be a selection of sides featuring wonders such as savoury potato churros, fries cooked in duck fat and ash baked celeriac. Other dinner dishes will vary from braaied rock lobster, served with smoked sweet corn and miso, a lamb rump doused in jus, accompanied by the necessary mint jelly, and a stuffed petit poussin that’s been brined, slow sous-vided and roasted to order and then carved tableside, of course. Dessert is a no-frills affair, the menu will feature a caramelised lemon tart, a champagne-poached rhubarb mess and a chocolate soufflé paired with a hazelnut and Grand Marnier ice cream. Is there anything more you would want?

The overall menu comprises exciting takes on tried and trusted dishes, and there’s a definite homage to Test Kitchen and Pot Luck and the influences they’ve had on Wes. The restaurant is going to offer a an old-world experience, all the while serving up some delicious food.

The Shortmarket Club
There is no pretense when it comes to The Shortmarket Club. You want to quietly and quickly eat your breakfast? They’ll have you in and out in no time. Keen to languish over lunch? Sure thing. Planning a blow out birthday dinner? They’ll be ready and waiting with cocktails, three courses and after dinner drinks. The official opening date for The Shortmarket Club is the 7th June and they will soon be taking reservations telephonically and over email. Whatever you have in mind, they’ll welcome you with open arms. We’re always excited for a new restaurant to open, and this one is no exception – The Shortmarket Club will be a wonderful addition to the Cape Town food scene.
The Shortmarket Club
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