Having dipped his toe into the Johannesburg food scene with a series of successful pop-up restaurants, award-winning chef Luke Dale Roberts has finally put down roots with the opening of The Shortmarket Club JHB in the cosmopolitan Rosebank neighborhood.
The original Shortmarket Club in Cape Town has enjoyed rave reviews since its glamorous arrival in 2016. Having weathered the Covid-induced storm, it re-opened post-pandemic earlier this year reimagined as The Shortmarket Grill, serving an equally decadent but more relaxed brasserie menu.
[See also: Restaurant Klein JAN opens in South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari]
The new Shortmarket Club JHB could be seen as bringing the best of both past and present together, offering an alluring mix of small plate Asian-influenced fine-dining, complemented by a selection of fine prime cuts and seafood platters.
The British-born chef has well and truly made his mark on the South African culinary landscape since landing in Cape Town in 2006.
Prior to his arrival, Dale Roberts had trained in England and Switzerland before spending six years working in a string of successful kitchens across South East Asia, an experience that has had a distinct influence in shaping his creative brand of cookery.
After a four-year stint as executive chef at Cape Town’s legendary La Colombe Restaurant, where under his tenure, the restaurant received global recognition with a succession of awards, the chef went it alone. This move would see Dale Roberts open what has been widely regarded as Africa’s best restaurants in The Test Kitchen, a daringly creative fine-dining destination, unafraid of experimentation with global flavors across its 18-course sensory tasting menu.
Following the growing success of his debut, the chef launched the lauded Pot Luck Club. Housed at the top of the same converted biscuit factory that is home to The Test Kitchen, the restaurant overlooks the harbor and Table Mountain and has become a favorite amongst Cape Town foodies.
It was no surprise that in 2016, when Dale Robert’s opened The Shortmarket Club in a stylish heritage building just off the capital’s Bree Street, the excitement was palpable. The new Shortmarket Club in Johannesburg represents a significant milestone for the chef. Speaking ahead of last week’s opening, Dale Roberts said: “I’m extremely excited to finally lay permanent roots in Joburg with the addition of The Shortmarket Club JHB. It’s been a long time coming so to make this move during a global pandemic and multiple lockdowns makes this achievement all the more special!”
At the helm of Shortmarket Club JHB’s kitchen, Dale Roberts has placed head chef, Taryn Smith. The pair have developed an eastern-infused menu that is half-fine dining, half-bistro using ethically sourced ingredients wherever possible. “The philosophy behind my cooking is more about discovery. With food there is always something new to pursue,” says Smith. “With an Asian twist, my aim is to make simple food taste complex and intricate.”
Bold flavors can be found in starters such as the Japanese pancake with crispy calamari drizzled with a yuzu dressing and burnt honey and soy glaze and the indulgent Beef tataki with miso dressing, peanut XO and crispy shallots.
For the main course, small plate highlights include BBQ pork belly with coconut and lemongrass and Line-caught fish of the day with chili sambal and peach salad.
Alternatively, from the grill, diners can opt for something a bit more traditional with fine cuts of Wagyu or the 900g T-Bone to share. These can be served with a yuzu & garlic butter for a dash of far eastern flare.
The interior has taken its lead from the vintage speak-easy aesthetic of its older Cape Town sibling, explains Sandalene Dale Roberts, the interior designer behind both venues as well as the chef’s wife.“Diners can expect elements such as rich deep tones, warm lighting, old-fashioned touches and accents of leather, brass and fluted glass all artfully staged in a heritage brasserie and smoky cigar lounge type setting,” she comments. “When it comes to art, inspiration will be taken from the famous hand burnt butterfly installation by artist Mark Rautenbach seen in the Cape Town restaurant.”
The Shortmarket Club, 1 Oxford Parks, 199 Oxford Road, Rosebank, Johannesburg, theshortmarketclub.co.za
[See also: The Leading Countries for Sustainable Fine Dining]