7 October 2010 by Robyn Campbell

Ramsey vs. Riffel

At the end of July, while footie fans were wagering who would take home the FIFA World Cup trophy, local foodies were betting on the outcome of an entirely different game: foul-mouthed TV-star chef vs. local nice-guy in the kitchen.

The prize: a restaurant in the much-vaunted One&Only Hotel in Cape Town.

When it was announced that Gordon Ramsey was opening Maze in Cape Town, I couldn’t help but feel that we food lovers were expected to be awed and grateful. That His-Ramsey-ness, like some deity, and not a very benevolent one, had come to bestow culinary enlightenment on the southern tip of Africa.

Local diners blew the whistle and red-carded Maze for its high prices, inconsistent food quality and poor service - at least that’s what I hear - having never managed to eat there.

Local diners blew the whistle and red-carded Maze for its high prices, inconsistent food quality and poor service - at least that’s what I hear - having never managed to eat there.

With Ramsey about to be sent-off, speculation as to who would take his place was hotter than a Naga Jolokia chilli.

Local chef Reuben Riffel’s name was whispered. It was game on: Ramsey vs. Riffel, and the tweets flew thick and fast while local diners debated whether the gifted, but gonzo Gordon, with his fast-unravelling restaurant empire, should have stuck to his former career as a football player.

Reuben’s restaurant opened at the One&Only at the beginning of October, and the local food trade’s been remarkably silent.  I’ll assume this is because they’re dining contentedly on his brasserie-style menu.

I had the pleasure of working with Reuben on a business-class airline menu. Suffice to say that confronted with the logistical constraints of delivering fine-dining food onboard (that would make most chefs run away screaming), the only people who ever swore were possibly the passengers when informed that Reuben’s warm goats cheese and puff pastry parcels, or spinach, feta, pine nut and raisin stuffed lamb loin, had run out.

Reuben’s at the One&Only is the 3rd restaurant to open under Reuben’s name (the others are in Franschhoek and Robertson).

Reuben cooks comfort food with class. Modern and nostalgic, his food is impeccable, honest, and charming. Just like the man himself. Whichever restaurant you choose to visit, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Category: Food & Wine

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