Pot Luck Club, Cape Town.

November 2014

This is a wonderful town, full of interesting places to visit and right on the ocean. We explored the waterfront which is said to be classy but turned out to consist of shoddy tourist-oriented malls and over-priced restaurants.

In contrast, in a previously industrial and garment district, a six-story concrete box that once housed an old grain mill has been taken over by high end restauranteurs and converted. Downstairs is the Tasting Kitchen, probably the best restaurant in town and maybe in South Africa, unfortunately booked months in advance. But upstairs on the sixth floor is their lite operation, the Pot Luck Club.

This is approached by an outside elevator, and we were taken across a busy noisy room to sit at the bar which surrounds the kitchen on three sides. These were the only seats available when we booked two weeks in advance, but it turned out they were far superior to the tables in the main part of the restaurant. Less noisy, and also delightfully close to the very busy sous chefs who however were happy to talk to us, describe ingredients, make recommendations, et cetera.

It’s tapas, and they recommend six or more dishes for a couple. The menu is organized by flavors: salty, sweet, bitter, umami… I’d seen this kind of approach more often applied to wines but either way I don’t find it that helpful (I can’t wait for the next avatar which would be foods classed as carbs, protein, roughage, etc.).

Some examples of favorites. Bourbon-steamed mussels with corn were succulent and sweet, with a coarse toasted bread which we saw rubbed with garlic and saturated with olive oil then grilled in front of us by one of the cooks, the bread ideal for soaking up the lovely sauce. Coal-fired tongue with beans and gremolatta was a real treat, the meat salty and chewy without being tough, and the beans perfectly cooked so as to be soft without losing their granular consistency. Not quite on the same level were broccoli mops which were a bit undercooked, and duck breast which had been sliced rare, but the flavor of which was overwhelmed by an Asian sauce that was delicious but too much for the subtle duck flavor.

We had a wonderful understated Pinot Noir from Newton Johnson (I think it was called), a local producer.

Our server was not outstandingly knowledgeable, attentive, nor helpful, but this was made up for by the chefs in front of us. Our experience wouldn’t have been as positive and we been out in the middle of the shouting and howling false mirth in the main restaurant. The price (I don’t remember exactly but) was reasonable, somewhere around C$130.

Food 8.7, service 7.9, ambience 9.0 (taking proximity to the chefs into account and ignoring the noise), value 8.8.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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