It’s always a thrilling experience – riding the elevator to the sixth floor in Woodstock’s iconic The Old Biscuit Mill precinct. As the doors open you know you’re in for a sensual and gratifying evening atop the original flour silos where you’re treated to spectacular views of Cape Town and consistently excellent and often surprising food at Luke Dale Robert’s rooftop restaurant The Pot Luck Club.
Since 2019 it’s been Executive Chef Jason Kosmas at the pass, bringing his own unique approach to The Pot Luck Club menu. Earlier this year he also took on 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 Jason. “Although Pot Luck is all about bold flavours, I definitely think I have a light touch in the kitchen.”
Right now, and with an eye on summer, it’s taking a new tack on seafood that has Kosmas fired up. Drawing inspiration from acclaimed Australian ‘fish butcher’ Josh Niland, Jason – 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 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!”
And while Jason 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 and 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.”
While the punchy flavours and bold plating may be the most arresting aspect of many Pot Luck dishes, for Jason the underlying complexity in each plate – often overlooked in what appears, at first glance, to be a simple dish – is where the real magic happens.
“Our sauce game is particularly strong,” says Jason 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’s 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, you’ll never not find the chickpea fries, fish sliders on offer at Pot Luck.
So 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.
Jason 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 bartenders free rein, and let them loose to get creative,” says Luke. “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.”
For more information and to book, visit: www.thepotluckclub.co.za