It’s been just over a month since Sandalene Dale Roberts opened TTK Fledgelings inside the old The Shortmarket Club location in Cape Town, and this addition to the Luke Dale Roberts stable is bringing something new and meaningful to the scene.

The concept is much more than a restaurant, though, and the space buzzes with energetic young people looking to learn the ropes of the hospitality business. The concept was born from Sandalene’s dream to open a skills school for the industry and through this new venture, she has been able to create an upliftment programme that creates opportunities while teaching the necessary skills to work in the restaurant industry. “I’ve been working with some youngsters and just realised how amazing they are and that they have no money and no way of studying or doing courses and not finding jobs. It just kind of happened and it’s always been a dream of mine”, explains Sandalene.  From the ultimate gourmet burgers and expertly made sushi to whimsical cocktails and candyfloss-topped desserts, TTK Fledgelings has become a space to teach, to learn, and to inspire. Here’s what to expect when you book your table at Shortmarket Street’s new hotspot.

The food

If you’re a sushi fan, TTK Fledgelings may just be your new hidden gem for a fix. At the helm of the sushi section is Lihle Tshawuza who, before Fledgelings, had no experience in a restaurant kitchen, and is creating some pretty exceptional sushi rolls. Try the simple California rolls or maki if you’re a purest, else the ‘crunchies’ – panko-crumbed and deep-fried rolls filled with tuna, salmon or prawn – will satisfy those indulgent cravings. 

Aside from the sushi, there are some must-try small plates that you can either enjoy sharing-style for the table or as a starter before hitting the mains section. Nosimo “Bibo” Magidiwana – who previously worked as Luke and Sandalene’s son’s nanny – leads the kitchen under chef Taryn Smith’s mentorship and the duo are creating some serious flavour-filled dishes with the team. The KFC (Korean fried chicken) dish is everything you want on a plate and more. Succulent chicken wings are doused in a fiery Korean chilli sauce and make the perfect bite to dunk into a cooling ponzu emulsion. This dish is so good you may need to order a couple for the table. The Japanese pancake – a take on okonomiyaki – is topped with perfectly cooked crispy calamari, yuzu dressing and burnt honey and soy glaze. It’s delicious with spot-on textures and perfect as a light main.

Moving onto the heartier dishes, you’ll be pleased to see that the famed TTK burgers, which became a huge hit during South Africa’s lockdown, feature on the menu. Take your pick from the crunchy chicken burger with kimchi cabbage and sesame mayo or the ultimate grass-fed beef burger with wholegrain truffle mayo, pickles and mature cheddar. There’s also a tofu burger available as a non-meat option. All burgers are served on a glossy toasted milk bun with glorious golden fries. Other tempting mains include pan-fried fish and chips, beef fillet, or braised lamb shank with parmesan polenta.

End on one of two desserts: yuzu and lime sorbet or the banana split. The latter comes with brûléed banana, salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream from Unframed and is finished off with a nostalgic cloud of cotton candy for a perfect theatrical ending.

The bar

The bar in this space will forever be a favourite spot to linger for a tipple or two. The wine offering remains fairly extensive with a more affordable slant to it; even featuring the ever-popular The Pot Luck Club red blend and The Commissary rosé. You’ll also find an enticing cocktail offering as well as local beers and soft drinks.

The vibe

If you’ve ever managed to nab a table at The Shortmarket Club you’ll know all about the stylish, New York-esque atmosphere that greets you in this space. While the food offering may have changed, the ambience is as cool as it always was. The service, although more relaxed, is still slick, friendly and knowledgeable with the fledgelings learning everything they can from the guidance and mentorship of some of the seasoned front of house team and chefs of the TTK group.

What’s next?

“The support has been amazing. I’m so flipping grateful”, says Sandalene on the feedback on the TTK Fledgelings. “My biggest thing is for us to keep on evolving and doing different things, expected and unexpected and just for everyone to grow. I want to really prepare all my Fledgelings for life”, she adds. On the food side of things, Sandalene hints at covering some more vegan options in the coming weeks.

The Test Kitchen Fledgelings is open Wednesday to Saturday from 6pm at 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town.

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