It could be that Ash is formally known as Ash Restaurant, but that isn’t entirely clear from the restaurant logo, and besides, just Ash rhymes with so many vital things related to good eating, like cash, and smash (in your face), and succotash, and MASH (more about which shortly). So brevity wins — in the title at least.

It’s “Charcoal Cooking” (without the smash of smoke in your nostrils when you walk into the place, which is a good thing) in the new digs shared with Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants and Publik Wine Bar. So restaurant, meat shop, and bar under one roof, which is also a pretty good thing. (There’s also an actual saw hanging in the meat fridge, which is a slightly frightening thing.)

For most of our meal, we are the only ones in the restaurant, which is a strange thing because it’s Friday in Cape Town, and this is kind of a hipsterish spot. But maybe this is also a good thing, because from beginning to end our service is almost impeccable, and delivered with a very pretty smile.

We begin with some “snackles”, because that’s obviously where one should begin a Friday lunch, and also because who can say no to snackles? Pig head scrumpet with apple compote, plus “bread and butter”, which are hunks of excellently crusty sourdough with homemade butter and whipped chicken fat. Whipped. Chicken. Fat. We trust you get the picture. We are also very glad to have brought the munching men, because those hunks of bread are not just for two dainty lunching ladies.

Mains were a hard choice, mostly because there was a 100 day-old roast chicken on there which is meant for sharing, and which sounded pretty darn good, but that would have been the end of all of us. So we opt for “more is more”, which meant a little rump, a huge sirloin on the bone, duck (breast and leg) and beets, rolled slow-roasted lamb with herb oil, bone marrow MASH, and hay-smoked potatoes. Oh, and choucroute and more wine.

We like to call the next little potato ensemble The Tim Noakes Dietright. Or was it Diatribe?

A word, first, about that mash. It contains bone marrow, and therefore that word is outstanding (even for some of us who are neither potato nor bone marrow lovers). The hay smoked little ones were also fine potatoes, but the smokey-ness was a bit too subtle to be interesting, while the chips (which strangely came with the duck dish, while no other mains came with sides) were delightfully light and crispy. The one beer-drinking munching man said the same of his brew.

Somewhat surprisingly, the unanimous vote was that the best dishes were the duck and lamb — though consensus was never reached about in which order. Both of the steaks were *fine*, but disappointingly not fantastic in a place prides itself not only on excellent meat, but also a kick-ass Josper oven which is supposed to be able to render the shit out of beef fat without overcooking the meat. This meat was properly cooked, but the fat was poorly rendered, and the sirloin rather sinewy.

Nonetheless, we were full and happy, and it was still Friday, and since madeleines are just boring little sponge cakes, we settled on trying the lemon meringue for dessert. It had just the right balance of crunch, and tart, and sweet, and slight char on the meringue. The poor thing didn’t stand a chance.

Probably the most surprising thing about lunch was seeing, just one day later, this “review” posted on Facebook:

So if we were just lucky, that’s pretty disappointing. Or, if we were lucky, maybe that was just our happy destiny (without the fate of course). I think someone else got unlucky, which is disappointing for them.

But we’ll certainly be back with a posse for that 100 day-old chicken, followed by cheesecake doughnuts this time. The (sm)Ash is on.

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Originally published at on October 12, 2016.