Underground charcoal-cooking in the heart of the CBD
Claim to fame: Sustainable nose-to-tail approach enhanced by the Rolls Royce of barbecues
Reason to go: Laid-back, super casual and trendy top-end dining
To look out for: A butchery and wine bar complete this tasty gourmet trifecta
An easy to miss, street-level entrance takes you below ground for a multisensory, gourmet experience of extraordinary food, craft beers, cocktails and a butchery – a reminder of the origins of this nose-to-tail menu that you’re about to feast on.
One would think it was merely eponymous, a restaurant called ASH, owned by one of Cape Town’s brightest culinary stars, Ash Heeger, but there’s more to this than meets the eye. It’s a multi-facetted pun as Heeger cooks the lion’s share of her menu on a high-tech indoor barbecue sourced all the way from Spain. That thing is called a Josper, it’s made of galvanized steel, allows for very high temperatures and imparts a really intense charcoal flavor. Ash and you shall receive!
Heeger stoked fires in Cape Town’s La Colombe and The Test Kitchen, as well as in London’s Dinner by Heston and The Ledbury, before she blazed out on her own, joining forces with Publik Wine Bar and Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants. A simple yet precise and focused one-page clipboard menu eases you into some tough decisions, as each item displays an unusual slant on what appears to be everyday dishes. Seasonal vegetables are always at play, with cuts of ethically sourced, sustainable meats championed throughout. Even bread and butter aren’t what they seem; roughly textured sourdough is served with chicken butter and miso salt. ASH is definitely the only joint in Cape Town where you’ll find pig head scrumpets, made from braised pig head and shoulder meat, served with apple and Hanepoot sauce, sultanas and home-pickled onions. Green beef is something to get your head around; raw beef is tangled with green garden shoots, dressed with peppery green oil and served with charred sourdough bread for mopping. Deep-fried egg in kataifi pastry atop crispy kale is part mycological study with foraged mushrooms, pickled pine rings, porcini cream and ditto dust. West Coast Mussels are charcoal fried with tom yum sauce, spring onions and pickled ginger, complemented by perfect potato bread. Spekboom chutney, made from a succulent, miracle worker-wonder plant native to the Karoo, accompanies a slick South African cheese selection served with Noble Late Harvest apples, house crackers, honeycomb and sourdough. Don’t leave without ordering (in advance, as they are baked to order) a dozen madeleines for next morning’s coffee.
The wine list is extensive and has been curated by Publik Wine Bar. Diners are encouraged to shop at the meat counter and add cuts to their bill. Service is smart and friendly, yet totally unobtrusive.