Shortmarket Street will see a new landmark this month, upping the stakes from a coffee and after-work-drinks area, to a fine-dining destination. On June 27th, the city will welcome The Shortmarket Club (SMC), headed by Wesley Randles with the help of his mentor and partner Luke Dale-Roberts.
The young chef has been fine-tuning his skills over the past few years as executive chef at The Pot Luck Club, and previously working at The Test Kitchen. We met with Wesley at the new developing space at 88 Shortmarket Street to find out about Luke’s right hand man and his new city venture.
A doorway brushing House of Machines led me down a corridor and upstairs. Expecting a compact, dimly lit space, I was utterly surprised at what stood before me. The open expansive kitchen sits beside a bar beneath a row of low-hung deco glass lampshades. The bar and kitchen form a perimeter which will hold the bar/lounge area, and is separated from the seating area by beautiful antique Argentinian stained glass sliding doors, which really sets the scene for the dining room beyond.
The once crack-den nightclub has been transformed by Luke’s wife and SMC partner Sandalene. The large dining room holds around 80 seats with intimate booths, low hanging 20s-style glass pendants, a high ceiling with large skylights, and an all-round old-world feel.
The kitchen is in full swing, with staff making it seem like they’re prepping for a full house. In the other corner Wesley, Luke and some others are huddled together sampling a dish.
We finally sit down and start chatting about the menu that is ready and awaiting its guests. ‘I’ve evolved the menu according to the space we’re in…it needed to be an organic progression’ explains Wesley who wanted the menu not to mimic Pot Luck but reflect the restaurant’s style and polished aesthetic. ‘It’s a different vibe, it’s a different setting, everything’s different’ he says.
Comprising breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu will consist of classic dishes that have been transformed into something fresh. Wesley didn’t divulge on lunch and dinner but breakfast will see shiitake brioche, Scotch eggs with truffle and a reinvented Arnold Bennett amongst other dishes you won’t see anywhere else.
What’s really exciting about SMC, and you feel it from the moment you step inside, is that it’s a rejuvenation of fine-dining and a concept that is missing in Cape Town . ‘I want to find something between casual and fine-dining’ explains Wesley, ‘we’re bringing back a style of service that’s been forgotten because people deemed it cliché or awkward…and make it cool’ he explains. Think bread and cheese on ‘Mad Max’-style trollies and food served off large silver trays, mixed with modern sophisticated service.
Growing up in Durban, Wesley knew his heart lay in the restaurant industry, working from a young age in the business. Cooking came next, realising that for a ‘good restaurant’ you need ‘good food’. And after years of working with one of the best chefs in South Africa, its safe to say the guy’s food is not good, but sensational. His dream is now realised in The Shortmarket Club.
Manager, Simon Widdison, who has also worked with Luke since the early Test Kitchen days and recently Pot Luck, will also be moving over to SMC, solidifying the unstoppable team behind the fox, pig, butterfly and owl (see emblem).
The bar is a significant feature of the restaurant that enables accessibility to the SMC experience. ‘You will always get a table provided you’re willing to wait for a table’ explains Wesley. He wants to welcome foot traffic and encourage people to sit back and relax in the bar after work and order martinis and oysters.
Next year there are plans for a members’ bar, after hours, for fellow industry players and anyone in the creative arts with a similar mind set to that of Wesley, Luke and the whole group. ‘We need to give back to our industry in a way’ said Wesley. Chefs can finish work and come to a relaxed comfortable space drink whiskey and order from the ‘late night drunk menu’ on Thursday and Friday nights.
Wesley has a really steadfast vision for The Short Market Club, which doesn’t rely on the success of its two sibling restaurants to stand out. Luke and Sandaline’s support of Wesley is testimony to his creativity and ability and we cannot wait to see this on display in the coming weeks. The space is beautiful, the location is perfect and the food will most certainly follow suit.
- Ceili McGeever