Heading back to his roots, in a space almost diagonally opposite where his first restaurant once stood, Chef Reuben Riffel has opened his new Franschhoek restaurant Reuben’s Restaurant and Bar.

According to Reuben ‘The new space has been a long time coming. We were blessed to have always worked with amazing people. But I have always had a desire to have my own place; to own my own space. I needed to feel that this is mine. Not only the building, but also the ideas, what we do, I wanted something that was created by and owned by Maryke and me. It was wonderful to transform this space into what we have now. This is the exact space that we always dreamed of. We injected a lot of ourselves into the space. And we are really happy with it.’

The restaurant has high ceilings and large windows, with an impressive wine cellar and South African art adorns the walls. Taking pride of place is a black and white painting of Reuben’s grandfather, painted from a photograph by South African artist Eugenia Campbell. Guests can sit inside in the main restaurant area, or outside in the spacious courtyard, and there’s also a private dining room that can hold up to 16 people. In the courtyard, the airplane wing from the original Reuben’s now forms part of the bar area.

On the menu is a choice of small plates or starters to be shared tapas style, or the option of a more traditional three course meal. The menu features local ingredients and a lot of Asian influences, with a mix of familiar and new flavours. “I don’t want to be defined by one style of cooking,” says Reuben. “I’ve always wanted a space where I can express myself, where I can be flexible about the things I want to make. I cook according to my palate. I cook what I like to eat. The menu can change as often as I like, or as little as I like. This place is all about what I feel like doing. There is enormous freedom in being able to say and do that. I’ve worked hard to have this freedom and I’m enjoying it.”

From the extensive Starter/Small Plates section, dishes include a Poke Bowl of beetroot smoked Franschhoek salmon trout, wasabi, pickled ginger, compressed cucumber, sesame and yuzu soy; Charsui Pork Belly with ham hock fritter, chill- ginger caramel and spicy salad; and Chilli Salted Squid with sweet chilli, fragrant salad and roasted pineapple and orange.

Mains include Springbok steak with butternut-honey, bacon candy, walnuts, pickled cabbage and game sauce; Braised Beef Oxtail & Cheeks served with pomme puree, crispy sweetbreads, peanuts and chilli; and Spinach Risotto with pine nuts, celeriac, butternut, burnt butter and grand brie. And on the dessert menu you’ll find Lemon Yuzu Tart, Spiced Créme Brûlée, Warm Chocolate Fondant and Baked Camembert.

For the courtyard area, Reuben is full of plans. “I’m thinking of serving espetadas, fresh off the fire with a simple salad and a glass of wine for those wanting to pop in for a quick bite to eat. I see tables of people sitting in the warm sun sharing various small plates and tasting the local wines on offer or trying a selection of the craft beer from the Franschhoek Beer Co that I’ve been involved with. I’m dreaming of fairy-lights and live music and good food. Because above all, we’re always about great food.”

Reuben’s Restaurant and Bar is situated at 2 Daniel Hugo Street, Franschhoek. Open Monday to Sunday (closed Tuesdays) for lunch from 12m to 3pm and for dinner from 6:30pm to 9pm. For reservations call 021 8763772 or visit www.reubens.co.za

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