Pot Luck Club Interior.
The Old Biscuit Mill, located in Woodstock on the outskirts of Cape Town’s city center, is perhaps best known as the home of the incredibly popular Neighborgoods Market. Every Saturday morning, thousands of tourists and locals throng here to sample food and drink from hundreds of vendors and shop at the many local designer stalls. Far above the chaos, on the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill’s silo, is the Pot Luck Club.
Pot Luck Club Exterior.
Since opening in early 2013, a reservation at the Pot Luck Club has become one of the most sought-after bookings in Cape Town. Perhaps that’s not surprising given that its owner, Luke Dale-Roberts, has long been considered the finest chef in South Africa. Luke has won multiple awards, and his restaurant, The Test Kitchen (also located in the Old Biscuit Mill) has won restaurant of the year two years running from the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards, South Africa’s very own “food Oscars.” Additionally, The Test Kitchen placed 61st in the 2013 World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, a remarkable achievement for a restaurant so young.
The Pot Luck Club features stunning 360-degree views of the city in an elegantly designed, glass-enclosed space. The creative menu boasts many Asian influences and is inspired by dim sum in spirit rather than in a literal sense. The portions are small and made for sharing. Menu choices are divided into categories such as Salty, Bitter, Sour, and Sweet. Two highlights from a recent dinner included Crispy Pot Luck Pig Tails with Citric Mustard, Lemon and Honey, and Foie Gras “Au Torchon” with Apple and Cranberry Chutney. The presence of Moroccan Lamb Ribs with Harissa Sauce alongside Korean Fried Chicken indicates that while there are many Asian flavors present, this is a far cry from your typical Asian-inspired restaurant. As an added bonus, for a city that has yet to embrace the brunch tradition, the Pot Luck Club offers a twelve-course tasting menu starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday. For an additional $15 you can also have bottomless bubbles. Certainly the finest brunch I’ve enjoyed in Cape Town.
Pot Luck Fish Tacos and Pig Tails.
One feature of both the Pot Luck Club and The Test Kitchen is the open-plan kitchen. There is a real sense of food as theater, as the kitchen is truly the centerpiece of both establishments. At a recent lunch at The Tasting Room, I watched as Dale-Roberts demonstrated a new creation for one of his chefs, while all around them line cooks and servers kept up with the hustle and bustle of the lunchtime rush.
Luke Dale-Gordon on the line at The Tasting Room.
The Tasting Room is the Pot Luck Club’s more serious older brother, and fully deserving of the many accolades it has received. Every plate of the five-course lunch tasting menu I enjoyed recently was superb, and the service was the best I’ve encountered in my city. The wine pairing for each course was delivered with a description that was illuminating rather than just recited by rote. When I inquired as to how long the pork belly—with pressed parsley, apples, rosemary-infused honey, blue cheese cream, and crackling—had spent in the sous-vide, my waiter replied without hesitation: “Four hours at 82 degrees.” It is rare indeed to visit a restaurant where the service staff is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Rhubarb Rose Granita Cart.
The presentation is also creative and memorable. The dessert course of Rhubarb Rose—rhubarb terrine, roasted strawberry butter, clotted cream, and rose granite—was prepared and served tableside from a gothic cast-iron granita cart, complete with a solid black concrete globe keeping the ice frozen without need for refrigeration.
There are an ever-growing number of reasons to visit Cape Town’s rapidly gentrifying Woodstock neighborhood, but Luke Dale-Roberts’ restaurants remain two of the most compelling.
Photos: Michael Grange/Courtesy of Sean Shuter