Happily residing in the Valhalla of Cape Town’s gastronomy scene is a restaurant of such popularity that locals and visitors alike perennially line up, Monday to Sunday, to secure a booking. Like a well-fed cat surveying its dominion, this top restaurant sprawls out on the sixth floor of the Silo at Woodstock’s artsy, industrial Old Biscuit Mill. And with high ceilings and wrap around windows, it provides guests with panoramic views of the city bowl, harbour area, and the megalithic triad of Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, and Lion’s Head.
The Potluck Club is just one of several jewels in award-winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ crown, alongside his right-hand man, chef Frederico Dias. The unsinkable Luke Dale-Roberts is truly a master of fine dining and yet, the environment he creates for guests in his establishments – including The Test Kitchen and The Shortmarket Club – is almost always unpretentious and undemanding. This is certainly the case for The Potluck Club, which is sophisticated, trendy, chic, and laid back all at once.
In other words, no need to wear a cocktail dress and thank goodness for that because on the fresh Friday evening we had the privilege of experiencing this fine restaurant, it was clear that winter was stoically clinging to the Cape.
The five gustatory flavour sensations
The Potluck Club’s menu is creatively divided into five sections, which pay homage to the five primary flavours: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. The sixth section is dedicated to desserts. Each gustatory flavour sensation has its own little selection of tapas-style dishes playing ambassador to it. Guests are invited to sit down and, with the paper and pencil provided, write down which of 25 to 30 tapas dishes they would like. The emphasis here is on sharing.
We left the decision, as well as the order and the combination in which they were presented to us, in the hands of the chef because, left in my hands, I would have ordered the entire menu. Also, the chef knows best.
Sweet and sour
The first two dishes placed before us set an incredible tone for the entire meal: from the house of sweet, came the tender and delicious beef tataki dressed with ponzu mayo, crispy sweet potato curls, shaved radishes, coriander pesto, and a sweet hoisin sauce. From the house of sour came the famous Potluck Club tuna fish taco with black bean purée, red onion, avocado, and sour cream.
The next wave was another sweet and sour combination: prawn and king crab stuffed chicken wing, tempura style, with crème fraîche, sriracha sauce, and a half slice of fresh lime; and crispy calamari tubes and squid heads dressed with lemon, atchar, mayo and curry XO dressing.
To accompany its absolutely delicious food, The Potluck Club has compiled a handsome wine list, which features an assortment of fabulous Cape wines, including several from lesser known, boutique wineries and some cultivar oddities (for the Cape). I selected a glass of the Ken Forrester Roussanne 2013, a French white wine varietal of enormous opulence and elegance, while my partner had the Radford Dale 2016 Chardonnay.
Earthy umami and salty
Next, we entered the house of salt and umami, that gorgeous savoury, earthy flavour you get from meat, mushrooms, and mature cheeses. This was showcased by the Potluck Club fish sliders on Asian style buns, while salt delivered to us the chickpea and parmesan fries, served with truffle and goat’s cheese aioli and a smoky ketchup I greatly recommend they bottle and sell. To me. I’ll take them all.
With my wine tank running dangerously low, I ordered a glass of the Raats Red Jasper 2016, an absolutely delicious and gutsy Cabernet Franc-driven blend featuring Malbec, Petit Verdot, and a dash of Merlot. This paired beautifully with the next dish, which, of all the incredible dishes we experienced on our night at the Potluck Club, was my absolute favourite. And it was the smoked beef fillet with black pepper and a sauce of truffle café au lait.
Let me just repeat that last bit for emphasis: truffle café au lait.
Creamy, smoky, earthy, velvety, and sultry, each slice of tender, medium rare fillet steak was coated in this exquisite sauce, transporting me with every bite to the mythical halls of Valhalla. As with the previous “course”, this umami instalment was paired with a dish from the house of salt – a creamy mashed potato with smoked chicken jus and truffle goat’s cheese.
Dangerously full at this stage, we decided – much to my bitter disappointment – to fast track to desserts, skipping the bitter flavour category. From everything we experienced that night, however, I’m confident that the chefs have innovated a delicious way to transform this typically unpleasant flavour sensation into something great. And so, our sweet ending to the evening was a hazelnut and apple tart served with salted caramel and a dollop of smoked cinnamon ice-cream; and a chocolate cigar, divided into three sections filled with pistachio ice-cream, saffron poached pear, and granadilla chocolate mousse.
A must-experience for Cape Town foodies
Together, chefs Luke Dale-Roberts and Frederico Dias have created a buzzing tapas eatery that, in 2017, landed the number 10 spot at the Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards. The ambiance is trendy and chic, and the service attentive, knowledgeable, and cool. The food is the star of the show, as it should be, and the experience warm and highly memorable. Dinner at The Potluck Club is truly a celebration of gustatory flavour sensation and a must-do-experience for Cape Town foodies!
The Potluck Club opens for reservations for brunch, lunch and dinner on the first day of the month for the following month only, starting at 08:30am South African time. Call +27 21 447 0804 or email email@example.com to book your experience in October!