I would love to spot somebody like Dylan or a disinterred Hemingway or a Charles Bukovski in such a restaurant and sit quietly nearby, watching their faces, as such delights were set before them. Their BS antenna would be up quicker than a priest’s cassock on spotting a choirboy, and they’d be out of there in search of something honest, preferably involving a bar stool and plenty of Jack’s.
My parents had both, as Yorkshire folk, somehow been influenced in the kitchen by their cousins across the channel, and those methods rooted in the humblest kitchens of the French rural peasant were practised in our kitchen in farflung Namibia. I love the deeply reduced, luscious sauces, the deglazing of the pan to capture every last of the essences that have been developing during cooking.
I sensed that afternoon how the British regard the press: truly as the Fourth Estate, i.e. “other”, and not far removed from what used to be called the servant class. There to fulfil a role, not to be overly catered to (quite literally, actually), and to know their place. It was a lesson and in a strange way refreshing because, really, that is what the press are there for. To cover the event, write about it, and then bugger off so that the elite can misbehave in peace.
Making a good first impression is often the most important moment in a relationship, or even the difference between a relationship and none at all. I remember one of my first dates as a 16-year-old. She was a farm girl from the Northern Cape and I was a fidgety youth who’d been paired with her for her family’s visit to the Douglas agricultural show. Why? I have no idea why. You’re 16, you’re visiting your sister in some cement making town even the people living there have never heard of, and next thing you’re in the back of a car with a plump farm girl who thinks you’re a big city catch, on your way to a whole lot of humiliation.
Reuben Riffel came of age in the sunny Cape winter of 2010. The Franschhoek poor boy-made-good has stepped out of the shadows of others who had bolstered his burgeoning career as a chef and restaurateur, and stepped into clear sunlight.
The chef came out before a particular course and explained, somewhat nervously, that the kingklip was to be served raw tonight. Riiiiiiight, we muttered, dubious, looking left and right as if wondering where the candid camera was.
So call out the gendarmes, for here comes one of my occasional confessions – I have never been overly partial to rare duck, nor have I ever been convinced that, as with rare steak, it is simply the best way to do it. Give me my steak blue. Give me my duck brown amd meltingly good.