Chef Ash Heeger’s new restaurant (it officially opened its doors in October) Riverine Rabbit, is perfectly located on Church Street. It’s that perfect location in the city that’s a walk away from everything else but carefully hidden behind a wall and much foliage.
With a string of accolades already behind her name and this not being her first foray in running her own kitchen – Riverine Rabbit was formerly ASH restaurant – I went with high expectations. Emphasis is on locally sourced seasonal and sustainable ingredients. On offer is a set lunch menu which changes daily. Dinner offers a selection of three menus: A three-course meal; a reduced tasting menu and a full tasting menu.
Even though it was lunchtime, I went with the reduced tasting menu: Snacks of potato bread with lamb butter, which made the bread taste like a smoky lamb chop. Cream cheese in a choux pastry bite with onion and caviar. Then there was a mouthful of lettuce with gentleman’s relish, crispy chicken skin and shaved parmesan.
My reduced tasting menu started with a dressed oyster, served on a bed of pebbles – visually different but very apt. Next was white asparagus in a hollandaise sauce with a side crumble that had chopped hazelnuts and pickled lemon. It was the coming together of the different flavours that made the asparagus – a fairly bland vegetable as far as vegetables go – stand out as my favourite part of the menu.
I went for the sweetbreads over the line fish. They were deep fried and in an onion broth with raw and burnt onion (the onion in all forms features extensively on the menu) and a soft poached egg. Sweetbreads are not for everyone. They always elicit extremes of preference – love or hate. Never just ambivalent. I love sweetbreads, especially in their simplest preparation, lightly fried with just a hint of spices. I found that the battered and deep fried on the menu took away too much of that sweetbreads taste. The spiced duck made up for the sweetbreads though – therein lies the beauty of tasting menus, even though I keep threatening to swear off them. There are going to be some disappointing dishes, but there is always going to be the fifth, sixth, or seventh dish that makes up for it. The duck came with a potato gratin thinly layered, mushrooms, burnt onions, mushrooms, and hazelnuts. Finished off my lunch with a summer pudding of berry sorbet, vanilla cream, and honey ice-cream on a shortbread crumble. It was the perfect ending.
Riverine’s decor is clean white walls, minimal decor and a great deal of greenery. It’s a lovely restaurant and an ideal spot for lunch and dinner.
Riverine Rabbit, 81 Church Street, Cape Town