Some of the best food in Cape Town is being cooked at ASH.
The space that was previously Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and Publik Wine Bar has metamorphosised into a triumvirate with the newest member – ASH Restaurant. Ash Heeger is something of a prodigy in the food world, having worked in Cape Town’s best kitchens, La Colombe and Test Kitchen, while still barely out of culinary school. She then spent three years in the UK, cooking at some of the top restaurants in the world, namely The Ledbury and Dinner by Heston. She returned to Cape Town to join this food and wine dream team.
The interior design of ASH is minimalist and led by the open-faced workspace. Striking emerald green and black angular tiles form the backdrop, while bubbling pots and a busy kitchen team create activity in the scene. Eating here is an intimate affair that connects you to your food. You will learn where and who it comes from and with this comes a respect for the ingredients. As is obvious by the connection to FFMM and how the restaurant came to be, the focus was always going to be meat-centric. The difference being that the meat is ethically reared, responsibly sourced and cooked with the utmost regard. Once you’ve had what FFMM has coined ‘proper meat’ it’s very difficult to go back to anything else. The fact is it just tastes better. The concept of ethical eating extends beyond just the meat dishes. All vegetable ingredients are sourced from projects such as Abalimi Bezekhaya Urban Farming, as well as from local foraging micro businesses. Ash has certainly taken up the challenge of creating a dining experience that hadn’t been seen yet in Cape Town, and she’s smashed it.
The menu is reflective of Ash’s personality – minimally worded, to the point and with a bit left to the imagination. It consists of a list of bar snackles like Puffed Pig Skin – deep-fried salted pork skin, which has bubbled to perfection. Bread and Butter – potato bread served with cultured butter, miso salt and whipped chicken fat. Yes, you read right, whipped chicken fat. Lamb riblets are honey brined, smothered in hot sauce and then slow roasted in the crown jewel of the kitchen – the Josper Grill. The bone-in version is meltingly tender and served with hot sauce and mayo. The Pig Head Scrumpet, a pork terrine that’s panned and deep-fried is served with apple, hanepoot and szechuan sauce. Being partial to beef tartare we were not disappointed by Ash’s version – Green Beef – expertly chopped and mixed with homemade mayo, served with dressed foraged greens and a green oil. Any description, no matter how flowery, would struggle to do justice to these dishes, you simply have to just taste them for yourself.
The main of Dry Aged Beef can be accompanied by a variety of things from the side menu, but seems made to be matched with the Choucroute Cabbage and Bone Marrow Mash. Don’t expect anything average about these dishes. Silken mash, meaty gravy and perfectly cooked sirloin steak (steak cuts will change dependent on what is available from the butchery). The Beetroot and Fennel Salad served with buffalo curds and almond praline is a light, clean dish that shows how a few simple ingredients can create the perfect mouthful. To finish off we were treated to doughnuts served with whipped cheesecake mix and freshly baked Madeleines. Both dishes were sublime and reinforced the theme of the menu – absolute simplicity, cooked with intention, with nowhere to hide.
The food at ASH is delicious. And while delicious may be the single most overused word in any foodie vocabulary, it is ultimately what any food experience is about. Delicious food is the most memorable and this is what you will find at Ash. It’s a food experience for those who will be able to see through the ‘simplicity’ and appreciate the sophistication and skill.
Ingredient drive, perfectly executed, ethically-sourced.