As the year winds down, I am yet again in awe of Cape Town’s captivating culinary culture. If I thought I had seen enough to impress me in 2018, then 2019 has taught me that there is no such thing as enough when it comes to this city’s food scene.
Whether it is the winelands, the beachside or the city centre, there are too many options to choose from six days of the week, aside from Sunday of course, until now.
The Short Market Club has seized the opportunity to wine and dine guests on the one night of the week that most other upmarket restaurants are closed on.
Unassuming from the exterior, like me you might wonder what all the fuss is about. And like me, you would be so wrong. A narrow staircase will deliver you to the multiple award-winning restaurant and your first thought is, wow, this is unconventionally spacious.
Much like the aesthetic of sister restaurants – The Test Kitchen and Pot Luck Club – Short Market Club has an open-style kitchen for you to watch the pro’s in action.
The design is simple, French-dining room style with booth tables along the sides and less formal seating in the centre. Aside from a small vase in the middle of our table, dim lighting, dark wood furniture and starched white tablecloths, the decor is minimal and ambient. The main wall showcases thousands of elegant butterflies in wooden frames.
I love people-watching at a restaurant, it is a form of entertainment that costs not a penny. A family, with two children and four adults, celebrating a birthday sits to my left. A couple, nervous enough to be on their first date, is seated behind my dinner partner and next to us is an American pair of girlfriends, probably in their early fifties, dissecting their very exhilarating first visit to the Mother City.
All our palates are in the wonderful hands of chef and manager wonderduo, Wesley Randles and Simon Widdison.
Jazz tunes melt into the background of the buzzing eatery and the highly-knowledgable sommelier offers us some of the finest local wine from the Cape. The Americans were a little unsure of our wines, until that first sip of course, and then the next 15 minutes belonged to the unbelievable wines born from the vineyards they couldn’t wait to visit during their stay.
The tasting menu is made up of 5 courses: tuna tartare, duck liver and foie gras parfait, followed by the butter roasted lobster, roasted quail and for dessert the chocolate glacê. A vegetarian tasting menu is also available.
The tuna tartare’s preparation is a multi-layered affair. Prepared with hazelnut, burrata and aged balsamic, each taste distinct but not overpowering.
I am not a fan of foie gras so I opted for the beef tartare – it is incredibly flavourful and set the tone for the upcoming courses. Creamy from the quail egg on the top, and crunchy from the darphin potatoes, each bite has to be savoured for enjoyment.
The butter roasted lobster is the dish that will keep me (and the first-date couple) coming back for more. Sweet, delicate lobster smothered in a silky veloutê of quail, pomme pureè, asparagus and broad beans with walnut oil, is as deliriously dreamy as it sounds. Each flavour was added in perfect balance to not overpower the lobster. That’s no easy feat, and yet accomplished masterfully. The couple called the waiter over to their table to explain the preparation of the dish again.
Instead of the quail, I opted for the smoked springbok loin prepared with a lemon and preserved artichoke puree and charred mushroom and elderflower jus. The meat was succulent and tender, and the complimentary flavours worked in perfect unison with the gamey meat.
The chocolate glacê was clearly a firm favourite, all the patrons surrounding our table had the same thought process. And by the many nods of approval, including mine, it was the one to beat for the evening.
Deep conversations and smiles, sleepy children and future plans, all were a part of the jazzy evening. No one in a rush to head home, I think the ambience and comfort had much to do with it.
Once the children were ushered out by their parents, it was time for us to call it a night too. It is a school night after all. Sunday dinners in Cape Town will never be the same again, thank goodness for the Short Market Club, the Americans agreed with us as we all sauntered out of the restaurant together. They were highly impressed, and so were we.
Contact: +27 072 382 8664
Address: 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town CBD