I was invited to lunch with Reuben in Franschhoek. It felt like a homecoming of sorts, gathered en masse to celebrate Reuben Riffel‘s beautiful new space in Franschhoek where he has found a home that brings him full circle to where it all began for this inspiring Chef. Design, art, natural light and elegant lines serve as background to the exceptionally beautiful and delicious food that he serves here. ‘My kind of food …’ as Reuben put it.
We feasted on sweetcorn polenta fritters, sticky duck salad, cucumber sorbet, risotto with buffalo mozzarella, lamb with baba ganouche among much else, ending with perfect chocolate fondants and creme brûlée. And all in such fine company. Here are a few pics and my encouragement to visit soon.
A closer look at the new Reuben’s
Reuben’s Restaurant and Bar in Daniel Hugo Street, is almost diagonally opposite where the original Reuben’s stood in Main Street, Franschhoek. It’ s not far at all. A couple of minutes walk or so. But it is different. Not unrecognisably so; not so different that regulars will be disappointed. But is it more grown-up. More sophisticated. The glass entrance hall offers striking views of the Franschhoek mountains on the one side and an impressive wine cellar on the other. The restaurant has high ceilings, large windows and feels open and welcoming, but it is also cosy and comforting. Informal even. It’s the kind of place, where, according to Reuben Riffel, groups of families and friends should come and enjoy good food and one another’s company. A place where you shouldn’t be embarrassed to laugh loudly or sing Happy Birthday.
South African art adorns the walls and a larger-than life black and white painting of Reuben’s beloved grandfather ‘oupa’ Abe Riffel, painted by Eugenia Campbell from a treasured old photo, takes pride of place. For while the restaurant is a public space, it is still very personal. Many years of dedicated hours in various kitchens and 12 years after having opened his own restaurant with other business partners, it has come to this. The Riffels own their own restaurant.
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.
And so they should be. As should their guests who have the choice of the seating in the main casually elegant restaurant area, or outside in the spacious courtyard. There is also a private dining room which can accommodate 20 people should you want to have a private function.
But wherever you sit, and whatever the surroundings, it is the food, as always that will impress you most. And if the restaurant is not formal or stuffy, then neither is the menu. There is a choice of small plates or starters which can be shared tapas-style or you can have a more traditional 3-course meal. The menu is eclectic, a lot of Asian influences and great local ingredients. Some familiar flavours and some new ones. It’s hard to describe the style of cooking, but then Reuben doesn’t want you to.
I don’t want to be defined by one style of cooking’ he says. ‘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.
I’s always about great food for Reuben and its also always about family. As you leave the restaurant, having eaten so well in such beautiful surroundings, you once more pass by oupa Abe Riffel on you way out. His is a comforting presence. ‘I wanted my oupa to be here. My grandparents once lived in this part of Franschhoekbut then they had to move down to Groendal so I wanted to bring him back to this part of the valley. Having my oupa’s face here, in a pride of place, is important to me. He is part of the restaurant. In this way I can honour him, and what he meant to me; what he taught me. This is my way of sharing my measure of success with my family, so they can also feel part of all this.
Reuben Riffel. The boy from Groendal owning his own space in Franschhoek and doing what he loves, on his own terms. There is something so very right about all of this. Abe Riffel would be so proud.
The Essential Details
- Visit Reuben’s website https://reubens.co.za/
- Contact Details: Tel 021 876 3772 and email email@example.com
- Physical address: No 2 Daniel Hugo Road, Franschhoek
- Opening Times are 12-3pm and 6.30-9pm daily, except closed on Tuesdays.
*With thanks to Manley Communications for including me today. Do contact them for any press queries.