Dinner at Chef Ash Heeger’s Riverine Rabbit

by Karisa

Riverine Rabbit has featured on pretty much every “hot new Cape Town restaurant” list since their opening back in October of last year, and with that they also quickly became one of the most Instagram’d spots in Cape Town (well judging by my Intagram feed at least).

This hot, new dining spot is the brainchild of Chef Ash Heeger who you may have spotted on the Netflix series, The Final Table.  Locals may of course also know her as the owner of ASH.

I actually used to love ASH & always recommended it to visitors to the city.  I regularly think back to this one particular burger I had there which just blew my mind.  I also really really loved the 2017 ASH revamp after Frankie Fenner moved out of the building which brought about a new look & a more sophisticated dining style.

Now enter Riverine Rabbit – same location, but a completely new vibe:

Loved the outdoor dining area, the marble tabletops and the beautiful brown leather chairs. Also loved that you could see all the action going down in the kitchen. It all creates a really lovely atmosphere with solid date night potential.

My friend Dax and I were initially interested in going all out and booking their Chef’s Table (R1200 per head), but then ended up deciding to just keep things simple. Their regular menu options include:

  • 3 courses @ R395
  • Reduced tasting menu @ R650
  • Full tasting menu @ R895

FYI:  They also have vegetarian and pescetarian versions of the menu options above.

We opted for the 3 course menu, mainly because we both love eating out a lot and through this process your body starts taking a bit of strain.  Six to nine tasting courses just felt unachievable on the night, whereas 3 courses sounded like the perfect fit.

For starters our waiter did highly recommend the Burnt Leeks.  I laughed & told Dax that I felt like I’d actually already had that dish, because that’s how many times I had seen it on my Instagram feed. 😉  We both decided to rather try something else.  I went for the Honey Cured Beef while Dax opted for the Baked Beetroot:

On the left: Honey Cured Beef – Served with tapioca, egg yolk, soy & alliums. On the right: Baked Beetroot – Served with buffalo curd, pine nut, herbs de provence & lemon.

We did a half way swap out (really love people who are willing to do this – you get to try so much more!), with me starting with the beef & Dax starting with the beetroot.

I enjoyed the beef, but that baked beetroot stole the show from a starter perspective. Not something I would have been immediately drawn to personally, but definitely something I’m glad I was able to try.

For mains, I decided to try the Spiced Duck while Dax went for the linefish – but of course planning to do a halfway swap out again.

On the left: Spiced Duck – with vadouvan, onion, apricot, mushroom & hazelnut. On the right: Linefish – with mussels, kombu, bonito, garlic & greens.

This is unfortunately where things started to fall flat. Neither of us were really blown away by either dish. The linefish (which if we recall correctly was seabream), started off looking super impressive with the dried bonito flakes (basically super thin, dried flakes of tuna) which were swaying back & forth, almost like it was under water.  After a bit of Googling I confirmed that bonito flakes are so light that basically any amount of steam makes them do a little dance.  Very cool effect indeed.  Unfortunately overall the flavours just didn’t pop, making it a bit forgettable otherwise.

The spiced duck also landed on the forgettable mark.  Nothing wrong with it per se, just didn’t have me going “ooh I’ve gotta come back and have that again”.

For dessert, I chose the Milk & Honey, while Dax dared to try the super-sweet sounding Koffie.

On the left: Milk & Honey – Honey, milk & almond. On the right: Koffie – Coffee with condensed milk, amarula & chocolate.

The milk & honey just tasted like a granola breakfast really, so thought it was a bit strange as a dessert option, and the Koffie dessert was just way too sweet & rich.  We didn’t finish either.

The strangest item of the night though had to be the complimentary sweets we received when paying our bill:

That’s two pieces of sweet, sugary fudge topped with a shaving of black truffle and drizzled with some truffle oil… I really hated this, to the point that I truly wished I had never put this into my mouth. Dax wasn’t a fan either. Our waiter said that people either love it or hate it, but to be honest, I couldn’t picture anybody loving this.

Now, we also have to talk about the bill.  This was the the other thing that had us going “wait, what?”.  Our waiter pointed out that a 12.5%  service fee had already been added to the meal.  He went on to explain that this 12.5% gets split between him and the kitchen staff.  If we wanted to give him a tip that would only go to him, we could add that to the gratuity line.

I did notice later on when looking at this photo again that they do say that the service fee is discretionary, but to be honest it didn’t feel very discretionary in the moment…

A couple of things bugged me with this approach.  Firstly I’m used to seeing service fees being added for bigger tables, but not really for tables of 2.   Unless that’s become a thing now that I wasn’t aware of.  Also, 12.5% PLUS then a further gratuity for the waiter just seems a bit cheeky to expect from your diners.   We ended up only paying the 12.5%, but I did feel guilty about not adding anything extra (even though we really shouldn’t have been asked to).

So ja, the evening started off well, but by the end of the night I was left really missing ASH and not too keen to do a return visit to the Rabbit.

The positives:

  • Beautiful space & loved the open-plan kitchen vibe
  • Attentive service
  • Nice wine list
  • Interesting starters

The negatives:

  • Desserts & mains were underwhelming
  • Definitely wish they hadn’t given us those “truffle fudge” sweets with the bill
  • The weird 12.5 added gratuity + still an expectation to give an additional tip

Because of this I’m going to give Riverine Rabbit a bit of a middle-of-the-road score of on my Miss K Kiss-o-Meter scale.  But hey, as I always say, if you’ve been wanting to give this restaurant a bash, I’m not here to tell you not to.  The restaurant industry it tough and different people have different preferences & tastes.  I’m just sharing my experience.

Riverine Rabbit is open Mon – Sat from 6pm to 9pm and you’ll find them at 81 Church St.  For reservations (recommended) you can contact them on: info@riverinerabbit.com or 021 4247204


** This was not a sponsored meal.  Dax and I paid our own way. **


Lia Apr 23, 2019 - 2:36 pm

This was an interesting read. I have been watching The Final Table and Googled ASH which I discovered was closed and then saw that Ash has opened The Riverine Rabbit in its place. I have been wanting to try the spot out, purely out of curiosity. It is good to know what underhwhelmed you and what is worth a try. Personally I think it is quite a cheek to charge 12.5% on a table of 2 and expect gratuity as well. Does Ash not compensate her kitchen and waiting staff enough? LOL….. Anyway, I am gong to give this one a skip rather… plenty of other places to go. 🙂 By the way, we are off to the brand spanking new Gigi’s Rooftop Restaurant at the Gorgeous George Hotel in a couple weeks time. Looks fantastic. You should totally give it a go and review it 😉 xx

Karisa Apr 24, 2019 - 12:24 pm

Hi Lia! 🙂 Thank you so much for the lovely feedback. But yeah I would agree that there are so many amazing little places to try out in Cape Town, that’s what I love about this city. Have added Gigi’s Rooftop to my “must try” list. Wasn’t on my radar yet, but looks fantastic. Excited to give it a bash & love that it’s walking distance from home. xx


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