In the beginning there was The Test Kitchen; then came The Pot Luck Club; and, now, The Shortmarket Club. Luke Dale-Roberts’s Cape Town restaurant offering is burgeoning, and no one sane of mind or refined of palate is complaining. On the opening night, hordes of well-heeled foodies queued up to be let into the newly unveiled spot on 88 Shortmarket Street.
The Shortmarket Club, described by many as a shrine or altar to modern cooking, is the brainchild of Dale-Roberts and his three partners — Sandalene Dale-Roberts, who is also his wife; and Simon Widdison and Wesley Randles, the duo better known for landing The Pot Luck Club on the Eat Out Top 10 list in 2015.
The Shortmarket Club is located in a heritage building just off Bree Street, and it was imperative to transform the space in a manner that didn’t seem intrusive or garish. Thanks to Sandalene Dale-Roberts’s out-of-the-box aesthetic and refined eye, the club looks as if it has been here for decades. And the space feels just right. The narrow alley transports one from bustling streets straight into the reverberating energy of the open-plan kitchen.
This spills over into the bar nook, giving patrons a taste of what is to come once they take their seats in the moody main dining room. The bar’s dark-wood
details and leather-covered tables bring to mind a fresh take on an opulent gentleman’s cigar lounge. Sandalene Dale-Roberts, who is well known for her Miyabi bespoke chairs, has a knack for quirky design details.
The standouts here are the locally made stained-glass windows, which have been added to salvaged Argentine sliding doors that shelter the dining room
from the high-spirited bar chatter. The hand-burnt paper butterfly works by local artist Mark Rautenbach add to the off-beat essence of the space.
Widdison and Randles have been left to take full ownership of running the restaurant, with Dale-Roberts in the supporting role. Randles has worked with Dale-Roberts since his La Colombe days, so the trust between these two is implicit — and it shows. Randles has created a menu that speaks to his modern style of cooking, with virtuous adherence to local produce and sustainability.
In keeping with the classic old-world standard, the restaurant is open all day, and serves breakfast dishes ranging from egg and soldiers to Arnold Bennett
omelettes — first popularised by The Savoy in the 1920s. For lunch and dinner, tomahawk fillet and rib-eye steaks from the grill are “perfect”, according to the chef.
The charming Widdison, who once worked at The Ivy, holds the fort as front-of-house. If you order the stuffed petit poussin, he might carve the bird for you at your table to show off some of his own flair and add a dash of spectacle. In just a few weeks I expect The Shortmarket Club to have changed the face of the food scene in Cape Town, with hedonists travelling from all corners of the
globe to sample Randles’s reimagined classic dishes in a space ensconced in opulence.