I was hungry; properly hungry in a way I hadn’t been since 2010 at the FIFA World Cup. It might have been agony getting to Sandton, Johannesburg, but a satisfying meal soon put things in order.
Reuben’s Restaurant located at The Capital Moloko, an upmarket hotel with all the bells and whistles you’d find in the heart of Sandton. The effort it requires to reach a restaurant is not the restaurant’s fault. It was my own silly idea to ignore the fact that Sandton has traffic in every single direction, all the bloody time. We arrived relatively on time and was met by one of the most charismatic and truly the best part about this establishment, a manager by the name of George! His warm smile, knowledge of the wines and hearty jokes helped us settle in.
Reuben’s cooking doesn’t contradict anything and it isn’t worryingly contemporary. It’s just really solid, extremely enjoyable stuff. The restaurant is designed by someone who is serious about muted tones, parquet flooring, dado rails and oatmeal-coloured banquettes. On a hot summer’s day after the journey from hell, it is exactly where you want to be, watching the butterflies fluttering by the open, mullioned windows while clutching a glass of dry white.
To anybody who has ever eaten at Reuben’s Franschhoek – the cooking will be familiar. It’s confident Cape Malay food is aimed at a grown-up crowd. You admire the good taste and technique without being distracted by it. It’s one of those menus I adore: something for everyone and the devil hiding in 100 raunchy details.
Chilli Salted Squid, deep fried baby Patagonian squid, sweet chilli with fragrant mixed salad. The squid wasn’t as hot as I hoped it would be. My tongue was half expecting a bang of zing and flavour exploding in my mouth but all I got was a mild sizzle. Which for someone new to the world of spices and heat, this is a great introduction. For the rest of us seasoned dragon fire-eaters, it wasn’t enough.
A word on portion size: occasionally you may scrutinize the pictures, and whine about the amount on the plate. Doubtless you’re looking at this starter right now and rolling your eyes. You can stop. Do I look like a woman with a bird-like appetite? Do I look like someone who can be satisfied with a postage stamp for lunch? Of course not. If I don’t whinge about portion size, rest assured it was enough for me, which means it’s enough for you!
Creamy Chicken Curry, coriander yoghurt, biryani spiced jasmine rice, cheddar-vadouvan spiced croquette. The curry was well prepared, and gave you everything you’d expect from a curry – a healthy amount of soft chicken pieces, powerful dash of curry spice and few hidden prawns to spark your taste-buds. It’s a plate of care and attention, colour coordinated with the white porcelain.
Pork Belly with mashed potato, home-made pickles, gochujang jus, seasonal vegetables, lemongrass & pineapple caramel. That pork dish is built on the classic restaurant trick of getting all the hard work in early – the slow cooking, the pressing – so you spin it quickly into something very pleasing on service. The pork was delightfully crispy on the outside while the inside was mouth-wateringly pink, soft and juicy.
Dark Chocolate Mousse with vanilla and coffee ice cream, chocolate tuile, with cookie soil. Every part of this dessert was beautiful. On a full stomach, it’s exactly what you need to call it a day. But I’m only telling you about this because I feel I ought to. It’s not the chocolate mousse, the tuile or the dollops of ice cream, all of which is about the best three minutes you can have in Johannesburg right now. You can try to make it last longer if you like. Or you can just order seconds.
They feed you well… they feed you carefully and they send you on your way. Which is what most of us want from a restaurant.
Price Range: R400 per person