With the taste of summer in the air, Cape Town’s small plate pioneer The Pot Luck Club is taking a new track on seafood that has Executive Chef Jason Kosmas fired up. Drawing inspiration from acclaimed Australian ‘fish butcher’ Josh Niland, Kosmas – a keen fisherman himself – and the kitchen brigade are experimenting with dry-ageing fish to create unique flavour and textural experiences with seafood.
“Ageing fish is an ancient Japanese technique that’s been part of their culture for centuries,” says Kosmas. “Together with my fantastic fishmonger we’ve been ageing swordfish on the bone in specially-designed ageing fridges, but my favourite right now is the dry-aged tuna belly. It’s like the wagyu of the sea. It’s just unreal!”
While Kosmas is firmly at the helm of curating The Pot Luck Club experience, he’s never shy to lean on the ‘captain’ for input.
“It’s quite incredible to be able to work with someone like Luke Dale Roberts, a chef who’s always developing, reinventing and teaching. I have never had a mentor like him in my career,” says Kosmas. “He’s always on the forefront of something new, which is really exciting for me as a chef.”
More than a decade after the doors to The Pot Luck Club first opened in 2012, Roberts’s iconic rooftop restaurant remains at the very centre of Cape Town’s culinary zeitgeist of creative seasonal small plates.
In many ways, The Pot Luck Club paved the way for the small-plate trend that continues to shape Cape Town’s restaurant scene. Yet, while others have jumped on the bandwagon, The Pot Luck Club stands apart with its menu of punchy flavour-forward Asian-inspired plates, memorable cocktails and animated atmosphere. And then, of course, there are those unmatched city views.
Since 2019 Kosmas has been at the pass, bringing his own unique approach to The Pot Luck Club menu. Earlier this year he also took on the responsibility of the recently opened The Pot Luck Club in Johannesburg, which has been a roaring success. It’s in the kitchens of The Pot Luck Clubs where he’s most at home; creating, evolving and reinventing what remains one of the most exciting dining experiences Cape Town has to offer.
“I get bored quite quickly, so I like to constantly develop new dishes. It’s about playing with flavours and exploring new angles,” says Kosmas. “Although Pot Luck is all about bold flavours, I definitely think I have a light touch in the kitchen.”
While the punchy flavours and bold plating may be the most arresting aspect of many Pot Luck dishes, for Kosmas the underlying complexity in each plate – often overlooked in what appears to be a simple dish at first glance – is where the real magic happens.
“Our sauce game is particularly strong,” says Kosmas with a smile. “The sauces have a very special way of bringing the dish together. It’s about bringing together layers of flavours that really highlight the complexity in each plate.”
A perfect example is the dish that has become a Pot Luck signature: the smoked beef fillet with black pepper and truffle café au lait sauce. Supremely silky, with a peppery punch and enormous depths of flavour, it’s a four-day masterpiece that’s been on the menu since day one.
It’s also one of four ‘Family Favourites’ on offer; a corner of the menu for those Pot Luck staples that loyal regulars simply won’t allow off the menu. While they may get subtle tweaks or a subtle evolution, the chickpea fries and fish sliders will always be offered at Pot Luck.
It’s in the 15 or so dishes that make up the rest of the menu where Kosmas and his team get to unleash their creativity. Big, bold flavours have long been a hallmark of The Pot Luck Club, but if there’s a single thread binding the menu together, it’s the subtle hint of smoke and flame. Although you won’t find any over-the-top theatre of making open-fire cooking a spectacle, the pair of charcoal fire pits in the compact kitchen have long been central to The Pot Luck Club’s flavour profile.
“It’s absolutely central to our cooking technique,” says Kosmas. “In one way or another, every single dish on the menu comes off the fire. And you definitely pick up that rich smokiness on the plate.”
Take the new plate of springbok tataki, with fire-seared springbok loin in a miso and yuzu glaze, served at the table with a warm mandarin gastrique. Or perhaps the hake topped with crispy leeks, swimming in a deeply flavourful smoked fish bone broth. Braised beef tongue is similarly finished over the flames, served with mussels and black rice amid a silky mussel velouté. Even the perfect slivers of tuna sashimi are briefly seared over the coals, dancing amid the flavours of grapefruit pearls, lemongrass and nuac chom sauce.
Kosmas has also put enormous effort into elevating the vegetarian plates on offer, from the richness of a roasted beetroot tartare with hoisin dressing and sweet potato crisps, to the heady fragrance and piquant flavours of a Cape Malay-inspired cauliflower; amasi battered and fried, but lifted with mebos purée, curry leaf and coriander.
It’s a level of creativity that’s neatly matched in the drinks offering at The Pot Luck Club. Alongside a hand-picked wine list that includes bespoke house wine, Pot Luck has long been famous for its cocktail creativity.
The collection of Pot Luck cocktails is as eye-catching as the menu, taking similar inspiration from Asian flavours to complement the plates from the kitchen. And behind the bar, as in the kitchen, there’s an equal focus on freshness and seasonality, with tea infusions, purées and juice cordials all made in-house. Sake cocktails come infused with ginger, lemongrass and passion fruit, while the Thai Green Curry Martini is a surprise hit with regulars.
“We really give our bar tenders free rein, and let them loose to get creative,” says Roberts. “Instead of bringing in consultant mixologists, we like to grow our staff from the ground up, and let them play their own part in creating the magic that is The Pot Luck Club.”
The Pot Luck Club Cape Town is located at 375 Albert Road, The Silo, 6th Floor, the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock.
The restaurant is open for lunch Monday to Saturday from 12h30 to 13h30 (last orders at 14h00). There are 2 seating times in the evenings: 18h00 until 20h30 and 20h30 until 22h30. Roberts’s quintessential Sunday Brunch is served every Sunday with bookings from 11h00 -12h00 (last orders at 12h30), and closing time at 15h30.
For more information and to book, visit: www.thepotluckclub.co.za