Chef Ash Heeger has pulled off an impressive reinvention of both the space and the menu at her stylish Church Street restaurant, Riverine Rabbit. Richard Holmes nabs a table for a first taste.
Cost: R895 for seven-course tasting menu, R650 for five course reduced menu, and R395 for three-course menu.
Food type: Fine dining
Best for: A sleek and sexy date night.
Star ratings: Food and drinks: 5; Service: 4; Ambience: 4
With a new name and new look for her restaurant, it’s only fitting that chef Ash Heeger has introduced a brand-new menu to this slick new space in the centre of Cape Town.
Diners are spoilt for choice, with a trio of menus from which to choose. At its simplest – and most affordable – you’ll find a three-course menu, with a handful of options per course. That ramps up to the full tasting menu of nine courses, with wine pairings per plate if you choose. If you have the time and funds, it’s a fine evening out.
On the starters the delicate, well-balanced Burnt Leek in brown butter, here served with tarragon béarnaise and hazelnuts, should be top of your list. Prefer something meaty? The honey-cured beef is outstanding, a piquant Hollandaise on the side perfectly balancing the richness of the meat. It’s a perfect foil for the award-winning Lismore Chardonnay from the Overberg.
Ash puts plenty of emphasis on sustainability, so main courses look to the likes of sea bream with mussels, kombu and fresh greens; or lamb with legumes and wild herbs. Vegetarians will be more than happy with the mushroom pithivier.
If you’re lucky at lunchtime, the superb Fired Mussels with moreish cider butter sauce will be on the good-value prix fixe menu. Topped with crunchy wild greens and crusty bread to mop up the sauce, it’s a simple plate that shows off the depth of talent in the kitchen.
Desserts are no less inventive, and chocolate fans will love the Koffie dessert, with its moist beer cake topped with an Amarula crème fraîche, cocoa nibs and luscious chocolate ice cream.
A small, but carefully chosen wine list is focused largely on respected, boundary-breaking boutique producers. Prices are fair and there’s a good choice by the glass, alongside a handful of bespoke cocktails and craft spirits.
After some opening-night hiccups, the team seems to have quickly settled into a rhythm. Service is warm and engaging, with staff well versed in the menu. Riverine Rabbit is also now a sister-act, with Ash’s sister Mandy keeping a steady hand on the front-of-house.
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Forget the dark and moody tones of the erstwhile ASH restaurant. The revamped space is lighter and brighter than its previous incarnation, with art on the walls and greenery to soften the edges. The handful of tables on the pavement terrace will be idyllic on warm summer nights.
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* A ‘first taste’ is a review conducted in the first couple of weeks of opening, when it is expected that the team will still be finding their feet and other small changes may still occur.
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