Art on a plate

2010-05-07 14:20

Soft-spoken Aviv

­Liebenberg lets his ­culinary creations shout out loud.

The ­executive chef at

­Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel says: “I want to entertain people with my

food. If I’m at a restaurant, that’s what I want.”

Well, I certainly was entertained – by Liebenberg’s ­signature

squid with nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce), which melts in the mouth with

accents of chilli, mint, coriander and lime.

The main course was a crispy-skinned duck leg flavoured with a

balance of tart and sweet – a citrus jus, apple-creamed potatoes and a dried

fruit salad.

For dessert, I had the caramel crème brûlée, which looked like an

­edible landscape, and the cheese platter too.

Reuben’s also does breakfast for the hotel guests. What a ­relief

it is not to be faced with a congealed breakfast buffet.

­Instead, there are

freshly baked croissants and bread, natural ­yogurt and pears in syrup ­and a

choice of hot meals – including crumpets with pancetta and ­berry syrup (rich

but delicious), and an English breakfast that will ruin you for any other.


Occasionally, there are duck eggs.

Reuben Riffel, who owns two restaurants – this one and the original

Reuben’s in Franschoek – will be joining Liebenberg in the kitchen for Reuben’s

Gourmet Cooking Experience this month.

Voted Eat Out Johnnie Walker best chef

and best restaurant within months of opening in Franschoek in 2004, Riffel, a

Western Cape native, and ­Reuben’s are making their mark.

Liebenberg trained

under Riffel at the first Reuben’s and jumped at the chance to get into the

kitchen of the second restaurant.

Liebenberg prefers working in a smaller kitchen where he and two

others – including pastry chef Christien van der ­Westhuizen from Le Quartier

Français – can see the folk wolfing down their food.

“Because we can see from

the kitchen into the dining room, you can see the enjoyment on people’s


Ironically though, Liebenberg doesn’t get much eating done himself.

When I interviewed him at 10pm, he’d only had a bit of toast and sampled two

blue cheese tarts all day.

But with a working week that ranges ­between 70 and

85 hours, it’s ­little wonder he wants to spend what little leisure time he has

not cooking.

While Liebenberg was deciding whether to study architecture or

engineering, he was creating scrumptious treats for his friends every weekend.

One of them finally recommended the obvious – why not cook for a ­living? The

construction industry’s loss is fine dining’s gain.

“The plate is like a palette to do your art on. People have to eat.

It’s not like they’re not going to buy your artwork,” he says with a


» Gayle

Edmunds was hosted by The Robertson Small Hotel

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