The Pot Luck Club replaced the fine-dining Test Kitchen Carbon, and we think it's much more well-suited to the energy of Joburg. Food in this city is more social than it is a deep connection to cuisine or ingredients. That's not to say Joburgers don't have sophisticated palates, but the atmosphere in which we dine is often more important.
Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch, our most recent visit here (August, 2023) was for brunch. The open kitchen gives you insights into the high demands of producing these small plates of wondrous flavours. For Sunday brunch you also have choices of bottomless drinks, another favoured Joburg tradition, from a classic mimosa to bubbly, or a DIY Bloody Mary.
We opted for the super spicy Bloody Mary (served at the table, as not all Sunday mornings are made for DIY activities) and were highly pleased with our choice. A perfect savoury combination that matched well with the tapas-style plates. In fact, Pot Luck Club excels at savoury cocktails that tease the palate with spice and tang. On other visits, the Thai Green Curry (Absolut vodka, lemongrass syrup, litchi and chilli purée) is highly recommended.
We were greeted with three menu options: vegetarian, pescatarian and regular. There is no vegan menu (pointing that out as a friend had asked).
The space has been brightened up since it started as Test Kitchen Carbon, with boats of light created by artist Hannelie Coetzee. The back wall of the restaurant also bears the artist's signature concrete etchings. The busy kitchen and loud music add their own fizz to the atmosphere, and on a warm day, you can opt to eat on the covered patio next to the bar, which extends into the walkway at Oxford Parks.
Brunch here is a pricey affair – but it also has the feel of an occasion, which is sometimes missing in Joburg establishments.
This is not a place to visit with people who do not enjoy sharing plates, as that's the joy of eating at Pot Luck Kitchen. The experience here is steeped in indulgence, from the richness of dishes to the sampling of varied tastes. On the day we visited the trademark oyster starter was not available – but soon forgotten once the tabletop filled with the taco 2.0, fish ssam, smoked snoek tartlet (a little too crumbly in the casing – but with a lovely flavour), and for a meat-eating companion, the lamb rib ssam. Maybe it wasn't the lamb rib's best day, but someone at the table declared the fish dishes way superior. P.S. A ssam is a Korean-style wrapped dish – usually in leafy vegetables. Each dish we tasted had distinct flavours and contrasting textures, and despite what seemed like small plates, they start to fill you up.
The pièce de résistance was the Arnold Bennett, an eggy and cheesy dish served in a small pan, named after the English author who is recorded as having ordered an omelette containing haddock while staying at The Savoy Hotel. It made British cooking history. The haddock taste was hard to detect – which would have been enjoyable – but the dish on its own without the history can easily stand alone. It was excellent, crispy on top with just the right amount of gooey deliciousness beneath. The line-fish tagine that followed was good, but if you enjoy richer tastes it was the equivalent of following a pole dancer with a librarian, or a rodeo horseman with an accounting clerk. We are all about equal opportunities at Johannesburg In Your Pocket.
The main attraction of dessert – and now we see why it's an essential on the brunch menu – was a peanut butter bomb. It offered all sorts of taste surprises under its wafer-thin biscuit covering, including peanuts, honeycomb and ice-cream. It was excellent and served alongside pâte de fruits and a tonka-bean Madeleine, which made a good cup of coffee a must as a finisher.
The service here is always friendly and professional, and great attention is paid to dietary requirements. Note that for brunch the kitchen closes at 12:30, but for all meals, it's a highly lingersome place. So, make your decisions early and then enjoy the lavish food procession.