Out of the ashes and into the fire
Claim to fame: Local hero and Netflix The Final Table contestant, Chef Ash Heeger
Reason to go: A solid emphasis on sustainability
To look out for: There’s a blue riverine rabbit on Ash’s forearm
Extraordinary food in a newly overhauled below-ground lair that sees a sister-act dominating the Central Business District’s food scene with a multisensory, gourmet experience of the conscious kind.
Following a radical reinvention, ASH Restaurant begat Riverine Rabbit (an indigenous, endangered bunny), the owner is still the same, one of Cape Town’s brightest young culinary stars, Ash Heeger, who has partnered up with her sister Mandy, creating 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 in the days of ASH Restaurant. The once dark dramatic interiors have transformed into a light, sparse, split level space that lends itself to deal-signing suits by day and date-night glam by night.
Diners can choose from three different menus; a three-course quickie, a reduced tasting fling or full tasting affair. Vegetarian and pescetarian options are up for grabs too. The latter celebrating the finest sustainable fish the South African coasts has to offer as well as a signature octopus Creole curry dish with pumpkin and paprika. The former will please the most seasoned vegetarian with hay smoked mozzarella, accompanied by fruit and black pepper, and beautifully butter-burnt leeks with hazelnuts, lemon and a wheat crunch. Expect choux pastry pre-dinner mouthfuls filled with smoked cream cheese, red onion and oyster leaf. A bold beginning of salt baked beets, pickled beet slivers, pickled lemon and pine nut gremolata will rudely awaken your taste buds in preparation for mains. The main dinner menu highlights a spicy, thyme-infused and egg-scrambled pulled duck neck dish presented with nectarine and apricot purée, and almond praline. Honey-cured beef is served with tapioca, egg yolk and edible wild alliums. You’d be foolish to avoid dessert, especially the Milk & Honey, aka Breakfast at Night, a granola, milk and honey number with freeze dried yoghurt and almond ice cream. A close second is the Koffie (Afrikaans for ‘coffee) in the form of a milk stout coffee cake with Amarula condensed milk cream.
Local boutique wine producers dominate a creative but concise drinks list. Classic cocktails are given a geographical twist, you’ll find your 1800’s throwback Martinez infused with whiffs of rooibos tea. Just don’t try to customize your tipple, these are carefully curated aperitifs, any substitute you might be hankering for will be politely declined.