Vue Shortmarket’s Winter Menu Comes with a Million Dollar View

vue shortmarket

In Cape Town, restaurant gold is struck when great food meets a great view. Enter Vue Shortmarket Rooftop Restaurant and Bar, with not only panoramic City Bowl and mountain vistas from its Heritage Square rooftop setting, but a stand-out menu of winter warmers and approachable globally inspired dishes as well, created by new chef Darren Allsopp. Ideal for easy-going lunches, casual dinners, sundowners, all around grazing and a new Sunday afternoon lunch with a vibe, it’s aiming to be your new neighbourhood restaurant, which just happens to have a birds-eye view of the Mother City.

When Vue Shortmarket opened last summer, it was an immediate hit, with its urban chic Art Deco-inspired indoor/outdoor space, menu emphasising light wine-friendly dishes like oysters, crudo and tartare, sexy champagne partnership with Piaff — one of France’s newest champagne houses — and of course views for miles. Yet as crop tops have given way to jerseys, it’s become clear it’s also one of the CBD’s coziest restaurants, by day or night. Whether the winter sun is pouring in through floor-to-ceiling glass doors or the room is gently warmed by heaters on a rainy day, it’s an elegant space that feels comfortable even as temperatures drop.

With the recently joined Allsopp behind the stove and a new pared down but stellar menu of carefully considered dishes, it’s coming into its own as a go-to place for food that speaks to the soul. The ethos is around sharing — the view, the dishes and Cape Town as a multi-cultural melting pot. Allsopp is an ideal fit, bringing fresh ideas and varied experience — from fine dining to homey trattoria — as well as a generous heart to the kitchen. “I like to push myself a little out of my comfort zone when it comes to technique and ingredients, but the soul of the food should be always be in one’s comfort zone,” says Allsopp, and in his case, this soul stems from solid food-oriented family memories.

A chef with an interesting pedigree —  Isola (a former Italian gem now home to Open Wine), Folk Café and Deli and the upmarket bistro at Durbanville wine farm Groot Phesantekraal – he also founded pop-up wine shop/tasting room The Queen and Peasant, in order to engage more with winemakers.  Always hungry for knowledge about the food he is cooking, he has worked on a dairy farm, fishery and fishing boat, as well as a butchery. Not surprisingly, quality of ingredients is paramount to Allsopp, who personally goes to fish markets daily to procure the day’s catch (always line caught and sustainable), regularly visits farms and actively cultivates strong relationships with suppliers. At Vue Shortmarket, all meat is grass fed and free range, and Allsopp is aiming to run as close to a zero waste kitchen as possible.

Vue Shortmarket is owned by Günter Boisits and Aidan Mautschke. If their names sound familiar, it’s because they also run The Drinkery, one of South Africa’s best cocktail bars – as well as The Sandwich Revolution – both also located in Heritage Square. This means that along with the cuisine, you can expect drinks at Vue Shortmarket to be top notch. There’s an excellent selection of spirits and wines, Piaff French champagne, which at R150 per glass and R900 per bottle is excellent value, as well as Cap Classique from Boschendal, Vue’s local beverage partner. It’s hardly surprising that the entire menu works so well with bubbly, starting naturally with oysters.

Oysters, Crudo and Tartare

There are three ways to experience oysters, which are always fresh from the West Coast. First the Classic: topped with lemon and shallot mignonette and a fermented hot sauce that Allsop makes with his neighbour, an avid grower of unusual varieties of chillies.  Another luxurious treatment is dashi beurre blanc, a sauce made with house-made dashi broth. This is an umami-rich combination of cold oyster with warm buttery sauce, crispy shards of Parma ham and caviar. For something completely different: oysters with a buttermilk sauce, everything bagel seasoning – the deli mix of black and white sesame seeds, onion seeds, poppy seeds, garlic flakes – and salmon roe, a dish inspired by a New York bagel. For those who can’t make a decision, you can order a plate with all three.

The crudo selection includes a delicate white-on-white-on-white Tiger’s milk Ceviche; a traditional Nordic beetroot three-day cured trout, with thin slices served with tea-smoked salmon roe, dill crème fraiche, dill oil and crispy shards of trout skin; and an imaginative yellowtail crudo. “We take yellowtail, which is a meaty fish, and treat it a bit like a beef carpaccio, with pink pepper, chilli and lemongrass balsamic and lemon pangratto (toasted seasoned breadcrumbs),” explains Allsopp.

Good things seem to come in threes at Vue Shortmarket: with three beef tartares (all hand minced from fillet) there’s something for everyone. “We wanted to drag tartare into the 2020’s with something flavourful and fresh.” Parmesan and Smoke is a parmesan-rich tartare lightly smoked in a jar with an emulsified café de Paris butter. The aromatic release of smoke when the lid is lifted at the table is pure drama. For an Asian vibe, there’s a ponzu and fermented cabbage tartare, with nori and daikon for crunch and egg yolk on the side. The third option is sliders: a genius entry level creation for those tentative about eating raw meat. With the seasoned meat between small brioche buns, with burnt butter thyme mayonnaise, mature cheddar lightly blowtorched to keep the meat raw, it is the perfect gateway to tartare eating and a nice change for afficionados.

A menu highlight is Mushroom Faux-Gras, a play on foie gras made with five species of mushrooms – gable, pine ring, oyster, chestnut and shiitake. This is Allsopp’s meatless but no less rich and silky mushroom-intense parfait infused with a reduction of port, brandy, sherry and mirin and served with pickled shimeji mushrooms and onion, along with a cute baby loaf of brioche. Also meat-free are the large arancini, deep-fried balls of arborio rice stuffed with smoked Stanford cheese, and a light and simple butternut gnocchi with burnt butter, sage and caramelised pinenuts.

A No Rules Menu Means a Main Can Be a Starter

With the idea to share dishes of all sizes, there is no strict structure for the menu so seafood and meat mains become something the whole table can dig into at any stage. The team want the experience to be as hands-on as possible, with food that is easily shared or served – this might mean a beautiful sauce that gets passed around the table or a bread to be portioned out amongst friends. More than half the menu is cooked in the restaurant’s charcoal oven, including the South African-inspired braaied yellowtail, served with apricot beurre blanc, chakalaka oil and tempura-fried foraged ice leaves.

Confit linefish is an unusual dish, juicy and buttery, served with a side teapot of harissa broth to pour over the dish, with homemade zucchini noodles (not the spiralised ones). Another great winter dish are the mussels, coal-baked with beer and chilli, then steamed and served with beer and chilli sauce and homemade focaccia for sopping up those juices.

The meat dishes are pure comfort food, starting with the family-inspired sirloin. When Allsopp was growing up, Monday night was French Dip night, when Sunday’s roast beef was enjoyed on a baguette with gooey sweet onions and gravy for dipping. His contemporary play on this takes the same elements but in the form of a 250gr sirloin steak, with a side of cheese puff pastry, French caramelised onion and red wine sauce.

There is a beef shin osso buco-style, simmered in white wine and served with gremolata, a traditional parmesan and beef fat biscuit and light parmesan dumplings; a well rendered duck breast with salt-baked beetroot, pickled shallots, port sauce and fermented blueberries for a hint of sweetness, and Allsopp’s famed slow-cooked pork belly featuring flavours of Northern Europe,  with pickled apple, baked radishes, cider sauce and of course, crispy crackling.

Side by Side – The Savoury and the Sweet

Moreish sides are equally wonderful for snacking, especially the Hasselback Bravas, potatoes that are crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, tossed in a spicy buttery sauce; and the Crispy Cauliflower – a play on boneless chicken wings in an Asian style black garlic emulsion with sesame seeds. A wintry salad of spinach, torched pears, candied walnuts, blue brie and Parma ham goes down well with a side of focaccia bread.

If you have room for dessert, a comforting choice is the chef’s homey Bread and Butter Pudding made with brioche, home-made carrot, lemon and vanilla marmalade, and layered with dark chocolate and chocolate custard. It’s a gooey delicious treat as is the more refined Bourbon Cremieux stuffed with caramelized white chocolate – “almost like a luxury version of a PS white chocolate bar.” It’s served with a refreshing apple and ginger gel, on a crumble base with white chocolate ice cream. Allsop’s mom’s dark and fudgy chocolate torte is on the menu, as is a small but rich and thick hot chocolate – just chocolate and cream served in an espresso cup.

Pumping up the Sunday Vibes in the City and Other Special Events

From Sunday 30 June, Vue Shortmarket will host its first monthly Late Lunch at Vue, a leisurely Sunday lunch with an à la carte menu, great food and music by DJ Dino Moran, from 1:00 pm til early evening. “Sundays can be sleepy in the CBD,” explains co-owner Aidan Mautschke. “The idea is to revive the city on a Sunday afternoon, creating a relaxing setting with good music, lunch and drinks with friends”. A little more up tempo and social than Vue’s regular offering, Late Lunch at Vue  will offer the same quality food and drinks, with lots of oysters and bubbly. Look for a similar event on First Thursdays: an upmarket and vibey experience with a million dollar view.

Speaking of events, Vue Shortmarket is also a plum events space for business or personal occasions. The restaurant can accommodate up to 50 people seated with set menu service, and up to 100 people standing with canapés and drinks service.

Vue Shortmarket Rooftop Restaurant & Bar is located at 108 Shortmarket Street, Heritage Square, Cape Town.

Lunch – Wednesday to Saturday and late Sunday lunch

Dinner – Monday to Saturday

Book online via: https://vue-shortmarket.co.za/