Let me do you a favour and let you in on Cape Town’s best foodie secret – winter specials. Yes, Capetownians, crawl out of your lairs and put the hibernation on snooze for a few hours – the mother city is lit with gorgeous winter special menus! And let me do you another huge favour (you can thank me later) by pointing you in the right direction: if you love your sleep too much, and can only bear to have one meal outside of your den this winter, then head down to The Shortmarket Club for their exquisite Prix Fixe Winter Lunch Menu.
The Shortmarket Club has been on my foodie bucket list for the longest time. I’ve been meaning to go for years, but then you know, life. So, I simply couldn’t hide my excitement when I got an invitation to feast on their Prix Fixe Winter Lunch Menu. After a few happy dances and a handful of fist pumps, I booked a date and excitedly started to count the days to fulfilling one of my foodie dreams.
Setting the scene
We all know by now that I’m a complete sucker for a fusion design approach when it comes to décor in a restaurant, where several different styles are merged to create an exclusive and lively dining experience. From the outside, The Shortmarket Club doesn’t really look like much. In fact, it took us a few minutes in the Cape Town rain to find the tiny entrance way in the gunmetal grey building on Shortmarket Street that leads you up a steep set of stairs. At the top, however, the dark stairs open up into a cozy reception area, with the open kitchen and bar in full view at first glance. These form a dramatic focal point that leaves you breathless from the moment you enter the space. Beautifully vintage stained glass sliding doors separate this open ‘chef’s table’-type dining area from the main dining room.
As we were shown to our table, I fell more in love with every step I took. High ceilings paired with industrial-feel elements like leather and wood contrasted elegantly with crisp, white tables and dark, velvety banquettes and chairs. Exposed brick walls and an assortment of low hanging mix-and-match copper ceiling lamps add just the right amount of casual-smart ambiance for everyone to feel comfortably relaxed. The dark moodiness of the dining room is perfectly balanced with two huge skylights, which lets in beautifully diffused light.
And then, the pièce de résistance: the framed butterfly wall at the back of the dining room, conceptualised by artist Mark Rautenbach. It’s deliciously unexpected, but so incredibly striking in its colourful composition.
The Shortmarket Club is a partnership venture between internationally acclaimed and award-winning chef Luke Dale Roberts, his wife Sandalene, chef Wesley Randles and manager Simon Widdison.
Since its opening a mere two years ago, The Shortmarket Club has already made waves on the local restaurant award scene, scooping up accolades for its diner experience, from food to décor. In 2017 it was nominated for the décor and design award at the second annual Gourmet Restaurant Awards. It was also placed at number eight in the 2017 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards, the most prestigious restaurant awards in the country.
Widdison was keenly excited to introduce the regular Prix Fixe Winter Lunch Menu again this season: “This three-course menu is ideal for a quick lunch that delivers on flavour, and it’s ideal for local business people to enjoy,” he explains.
The Prix Fixe Winter Lunch Menu consists of three courses which will change on a regular basis. It can be ordered with or without a carafe of wine from Paul Cluver, which perfectly pairs with the dishes on the menu and offers exceptional quality at a good price. Indeed, the Prix Fixe is a must for a weekday lunch to impress.
After a round of warm bread served with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, butter and a soft ricotta cheese, we were surprised with pre-starter of springbok carpaccio, served with a ponzu and walnut dressing, deliciously pickled shimeji, raw endive slivers and frozen parmesan. I was incredibly nervous about the raw meat situation, but after the first bite, all my reservations were gone. The meat was gorgeously melt-in-the-mouth and an absolute dream when combined with the delicate flavours of the pickled mushrooms and the tart ponzu sauce. It was rich and indulgent and oh so incredibly more-ish. Mind = blown and we weren’t even on the starters yet.
Our starter was served with all the flair and glory it deserved. Quickly seared table-side with flaming hot coconut oil, we were presented with gorgeous bowls of sambal matah tuna belly, slightly spiced with sambal oelek, chilli, basil and finished with a squeeze of fresh lime to balance out the richness of the hearty fish. Again, I was so skeptical about ceviche-style fish, but I was beyond pleasantly surprised by the complex layers of flavour captured in the simplicity of the dish.
The main event
Mains consisted of grilled fish with a lemon and tarragon veloute, fried pannise, green bulgur wheat and roasted turnip. The plate looked every bit as gorgeous as it tasted. The fried pannise was the star element that brought the dish together and left me with a full mouth experience when paired with the creamy, herby veloute. The roasted turnip added that little hint of sweetness and the fish was perfectly grilled. We paired our meal with a carafe (or two!) of Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc.
I need to stop here and say this: the food was incredibly sexy. I confidently knew I could expect fine dining from The Shortmarket Club, but I was (yet again) so surprised at how ridiculously good looking the food was. But more than that – even the crockery was carefully chosen to compliment the colours and composition of the dishes, and contributed to the overall dining experience by adding a striking visual element to the meal. I could stare at the plates for hours before daring to disturb the story each plate told.
Dessert was a wintery rhubarb crumble, served with pine nut ice cream, mascarpone catalan and a rusk and shortbread crumble. Sweet, warm, cold, decadent and smooth. A beautifully rounded dessert to end a perfect meal.
Two cups of delicious coffee later and I could happily tick The Shortmarket Club off my foodie bucket list. I gave it a page full of gold stars and a handful of extra ticks, too, because it surpassed my wildest foodie daydreams and left me quickly checking my diary to see when I can return next for another fix of deliciousness.
I’m incredibly selfish with my weekends, but this was a Saturday afternoon spent in ridiculously good company. We leisurely ate our way through this delicious menu, without ever feeling rushed or pressured to clear our table. Whether you’re after a quality week-day lunch or an indulgent weekend of glorious food, The Shortmarket Club genuinely offers something for every occasion. Exceptionally friendly staff who are attentive and knowledgeable. Excellent food in an excellent spot. Relaxed, cozy, welcoming and full of vibes, this is where you should hide out this winter. At R280 per person (or R380 per person including a carafe of wine) – this three-course Prix Fixe Winter Lunch Menu is an absolute steal. It is available at lunchtime, Monday to Saturday, until the end of September 2018.
Second photographer and photo credit: Timothy P. Gibson
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.