‘We’re very sorry to announce the permanent closure of @exhibit_a_by_syn
Unfortunately, the ANC and refusal to use our tax money for the good has led to us having to close our doors for good. We hope that they all sleep soundly in their stolen homes, with their expensive cars bought with stolen money. As for us, we’re done funding this circus of lies, blame and denialism. It took a pandemic to wake us up to a very real and very old problem.
To our loyal guests, we apologize and appreciate your support as always, but enough is enough.
It’s been epic SA 🙌🏻🌶💚
Bye for now 😜’
With this angry message on Instagram and Facebook Chef Rikku O’Donnchü announced the permanent closure late last night of his fine-dining restaurant Exhibit A, which had traded from the Villa 47 building on Bree Street in Cape Town.
Chef Rikku is a chef of a different kind, and impressed me with his ability and willingness to listen to customer feedback, accepting what he valued. He is a rebel of an unusual kind, not going with the majority flow, but having his own independent mind. He is hugely creative and innovative in his food preparation and presentation, having worked at leading international restaurants The Fat Duck and French Laundry before coming to South Africa. He raised the bar of our local restaurant industry, other top fine-dining restaurant chefs improving their offering in reaction.
I met Chef Rikku almost two years ago, when he was setting up the kitchen for the Gâte Restaurant at the Quoin Rock Wine Estate. Instead of approaching Eat Out, he contacted me, and invited me to an introductory visit, largely still a building site at the time, to share the concept for his new restaurant.
The Gåte Restaurant opening was the most spoken about locally, everyone wanting to experience the Molecular Gastronomy techniques of Chef Rikku and his team, with Sous Chef Warwick King.
The edible cigar and edible balloon became his signature dishes, and remained on the menu throughout, with variations and improvements over the eighteen months of his restaurant operation. The setting of the restaurant and winery, the architecture of the building, the quality of the furniture, glassware, crockery and cutlery, and the unique 16-sided menu holder to reflect the 16-course fine-dining meal on the table all became a talking point, and attracted diners to this new Restaurant jewel, which I predicted would become the number one restaurants a year later.
Sadly this was not to be, as tension between the kitchen and the MD of the wine estate finally led to the departure of a number of the Gåte chefs, including Chefs Rikku and Warwick. The two chefs opened up as the SŸN pop-up in the Villa 47 building on Bree Street in Cape Town over the 2019 Winter, closed during October 2019 for a drastic renovation in the same space, and reopened with a new name Exhibit A, only operating for just more than four months until the restaurant industry ground to a halt on 27 March 2020, when Lockdown began.
I ate at Exhibit A twice, and was not very impressed with my two experiences, including the staff service being very poor, there being too much liquid nitrogen induced smoke in the dishes, the interior green being too dominant, and the air-conditioning far too cold. It was very hard to write my last review of the restaurant, given my very high expectations of Chef Rikku and his Gåte restaurant initially, but I had to remain true to my writing with honesty. Ultimately I saw in Chef Rikku the same sensitivity that other chefs have, experiencing his unhappiness with the review.
During Lockdown there was little Social Media activity from Chef Rikku, a chef who was the most visible on Social Media prior to Lockdown. He did not get involved in Community cooking projects, like many of his colleagues did, and he did not open for Food Delivery and Collection.
The future plans of the talented Chef Rikku have not yet been revealed. From his message, it sounds as if he will leave the country. One thing is for sure, Chef Rikku will get back on to his feet and will create something amazing again. I wish him the best of luck.
POSTSCRIPT 23/7: From Instagram posts it is evident that Chef Rikku has lost a tremendous amount of weight, looking almost unrecognizable in his photographs. He appears to be in Port Elizabeth currently.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein