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The Pot Luck Club

April 7, 2012

I adore the Test Kitchen – I’ve been lucky enough to eat at Luke Dale Robert’s first restaurant twice now and the food has been something special on both occasions. But whilst the Test Kitchen still represents great value for the standard of food, it’s not somewhere I can afford to eat often, it has to be reserved for really special occasions. So naturally I was excited to hear that Luke was opening a more chilled, tapas type restaurant – a chance to sample his and his teams culinary expertise more often!

The Pot Luck Club has been pretty busy since it opened and I hadn’t had any time or money to visit this new venture. However when Hazel called saying she’d managed to get a table through cancellation, I couldn’t say no.

The vibe matches the simple, but tasteful decor and the laid back service. The menu contains a variety of smaller and larger plates and you are welcome to choose a few, eat, then order more, or order a load and they’ll gradually arrive at the table. A great set up to catch up with friends as you’ll surely want to share and try as many dishes as possible.

There is also the most amazing cocktail menu and we decided to have a few to start off our evening. My gin and ginseng choice was everything you’d expect from a proper cocktail – packed with booze but also with a unique – the sort that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve wasted your money as so often happens with the watery versions of traditional cocktails in bars these days.

For food, we selected three small plates to begin with – Crispy curried celery leaves, sake compressed watermelon with lemon, lime and Thai basil and baby potatoes with smoked paprika salt and aioli – all priced at R20-R25. I’ve never liked celery but the light bits of crispy batter and the dusting of curry powder made for a really unique snack. The sweetness of celery went perfectly with the warm spice of the curry mix. I did for a minute consider that ordering potato wedges from such an otherwise adventurous menu maybe a waste – but I was totally wrong. These were perfection in potato wedge form and I could have eaten another bowlful. The sake watermelon was a great palate cleanser and I finally now know where to buy Thai basil!

For our “mains” we chose the crispy pork belly with Luke’s XO dressing, red
cabbage and apple slaw – a much better version of the flavour combination I attempted with a roast pork belly last year. The real perfection was in the pork belly which had that ideal balance between crispy and soft fat and tender meat – delicious! Hazel raved about the mushrooms on toast so I had to try them. Served on brioche with sherry vinaigrette, grated lemon, parmesan and porcini dust this is a very rich dish (you couldn’t eat more than one portion) but a great combination of flavours. As our last main dish we opted for the coconut and calamari salad. A light dish, I was particularly impressed with the way the calamari had really been infused with the coconut flavours – it was of course perfectly cooked and not even the slightest bit reminiscent of the rubbery calamari you find so often.

Despite the richness of the dishes so far in the evening we couldn’t leave without dessert – so Hazel and Leana had the special lemon curd tart with grenadilla jelly and raspberry sorbet and I took a trip in to my holiday memories of Spain and had Churros – delicious with a ridiculously rich chocolate ganache and pistachio ice cream. For a take on the traditional after dinner coffee, we ventured back to the cocktail menu (after the first cocktails we just couldn’t not try another!) and had an espresso martini – the perfect end to a lovely meal.

I’ve totally unashamedly gushed my way through this review – the food was spectacular and the setting was perfect for chatting with friends – old and new. At R260 each including our drinks I thought this was fantastic value given the quality of food and we certainly left full. Congratulations to Luke and his team for another stunning restaurant. How am I ever going to leave this city?!

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