Mill Road chef turned into SA top chef
Did you know that Reuben Riffle, one of the top South African chefs worked in Cambridge for a while? Bruno’s Brasserie on 52 Mill Road was popular haunt for many locals. It was here where Reuben Riffle worked. Unfortunately, Bruno’s closed its doors in 2007 and unfortunately I never dined here.
When I lived in Cape Town, we often used to make our way to Franschhoek. In those days it was a quaint rural village with just a few shops and restaurants. I am talking about the turn of the century, the year 2000. A lot of things have changed since then, and the food scene is booming, and Franschhoek is still the food mecca of South Africa, but Stellenbosch is definitely catching up at a fast speed. Although Pete Goffe-Wood is not cooking up a storm anymore in La Couronne (now called Mont Rochelle) and Margot left Le Quartier Francais a few years ago, but Tina and Neil are still in Bread and Wine, and Reuben opened a new restaurant.
I ‘fell in love’ with Reuben’s food when he was the chef at Franschhoek Country house. It was not difficult to find an excuse for me to make our way down to Franschhoek as there was not only such an excellent choice of restaurants here, but I always would include a visit to Reuben. Before I sat down for lunch, I liked to wander off to his herb garden to have a nose around. When I moved to the UK, I soon planted all the varieties of sage, which I used to find in his kitchen garden. When I look at my pineapple sage in my allotment, I always have to think of Rueben and Franschhoek.
Reuben grew up in Franschhoek and had no intention of becoming a chef, but as with many chefs once ‘bitten by the bug’, there was no going back. His job became his passion, and from an inspiring young chef, he became one of the big names in South Africa. After having spent some time in the Brick lane of Cambridge, Mill Road, returned to Franschhoek and opened a gastropub. Within the first year, he became the ‘Chef of the Year’, and his restaurant ‘Reuben’ became the restaurant of the year.
For Reuben, this was only the start. In 2009, he opened a restaurant in Robertson, launched his own food pastes (basil paste, mushroom paste etc.) and he opened Reuben at the One and Only in the Waterfront in Cape Town after an unsuccessful stint of Gordon Ramsey.
I love visiting the Cape Winelands. As a foodie, I cannot get enough of it. This journey of the taste buds always includes lunch at Bread & Wine overlooking the lemon grove, breakfast or brunch at the Twelve Apostles overlooking the Atlantic ocean, sundowners at Dunes in Houtbay and dinner at Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Somebody to watch is Cobus van der Merwe from Wolfgat in Paternoster. This low-key restaurant in this small fishing village was voted in 2018 the best restaurant of the year!