Shortmarket Club: Sublime cuisine presented with table side flair and drama
By Bianca Coleman
With the support and backing of Luke Dale-Roberts and chef Wesley Randles in the kitchen, the Shortmarket Club was always going to be a success.
New restaurants generate a great deal of hype, and I interviewed both men shortly before SMC opened its doors in June. Finally going there for lunch three months later, it was wonderful to see everything they told me is evident. The vision of a sophisticated, old fashioned club has been realised through the beautiful décor, the waiters in their white jackets providing genteel service, and of course the fabulous food. We would expect nothing less.
Randles previously told me one of his favourite dishes is the mussels, which he cooks in a “really good chardonnay”. Oysters are poached in a sauce of chardonnay, celeriac, and roasted ham hock, and the veloute is foamed to evoke the ocean. They’re served with slices of bread in vintage toast racks.
This is what my friend had to start. The menu descriptions are all edited versions of how Randle would tell it, but the waiters know each dish intimately and are able to offer all the intricate details. I began with asparagus with miso and hazelnut hollandaise, porcini puree, compressed wild mushrooms, and a parmesan wafer; a beautifully light dish suitable for spring days.
For my main course, I had to have the petit poussin roasted with chestnut and fynbos and served with parsnip and sourdough sauce and tarragon gravy. Rainbow baby beets are presented on the side, and we also had a side portion of potato churros, which are the most heavenly little puffs of potato air in a light and crispy shell. I would be so happy with a bucket of these.
The poussin arrives with flair and drama, first as a whole bird on a platter surrounded by spiky chestnuts and wafts of aromatic smoke. It’s then whisked away and returned carved into portions. There are several different touches of tableside drama in the SMC service, but not overdone to the point you feel as if you are at a circus. Subtle and classy are the keywords here.
My friend had the stuffed porchetta with fresh peas and sugar snaps, pea and horseradish amasi, and a date and almond dressing. Both dishes were excellent.
Getting to dessert, I wanted the caramelised lemon tart with strawberry and amasi ice cream, and comforted myself with the thought I didn’t have to eat it all, but should at least have a taste. Well.
That didn’t happen. I ate every last crumb. My friend had All Things Spring – a naartjie, pistachio and mielie meal sponge with mozzarella and lavender ice cream, raw honey with citrus granite, and bee pollen. This too was finished tableside.
While some of these dishes might sound complex and complicated – they are, in the kitchen – the end result is sublime, and you will be able to taste every element that has been promised. The service was impeccable, with excellent wine by the glass recommendations. SMC is highly recommended, and there’s no surprise there.
The Shortmarket Club is situated on 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town.
Open Mondays to Saturdays. Breakfast 8am to 10.30am; lunch 12.30pm to 2.30pm; dinner 7pm to 10pm.
Bookings are done online via www.theshortmarketclub.co.za; or call 021 447 2874.