24HR emergency NUMBER: 082 415 7127 report an incident

Between Us...A Bree st success story

Between Us...A Bree st success story

by Kim Maxwell
31 January 2021

They were 21 when they started their first Cape Town restaurant. Ten years later, the Friedberg twins, who own and operate Between Us, are still committed to the Central City.

If you’re looking for examples of focused, creative and quietly determined business owners who are committed to the Cape Town CBD, restaurateurs Jesse and Jamie Friedberg are eligible candidates.

When the twins celebrated their 31st birthday last July, it was after a decade of hands-on involvement in city centre restaurants. Admittedly, lockdown meant that Between Us restaurant wasn’t trading at the time (they tried to re-open, but in the dead of winter, the move was premature).

At age 21, the Friedbergs opened a small café called Skinny Legs & All. Then, after a brief attempt at movie-production catering and private cheffing for families, they got back into the restaurant game. Launching Between Us in upper Bree Street in 2018 meant carefully renovating a heritage building. Working alongside their landlord, they gutted a building set on two erfs, reinforcing its slate walls with white cement, with elegant results.

“It does feel like a lifetime in restaurants; it’s a decade in food,” says Jesse of their charming, airy space. She wouldn’t have it any other way.


Warm wooden tables are a feature of Between Us in Bree St.

BUSINESS ROLES

It’s hard to tell the co-owners apart. “People do confuse us, until they get to know us. We have similar mannerisms,” laughs Jesse. “I guess I’m more of a people person. Jamie doesn’t like to engage; she’s more comfortable in the kitchen with food.”

Does this dictate their business roles? “It came from our Skinny Legs & All days. We started with the same skills set, which was nil,” laughs Jesse. Jamie landed up in the kitchen and Jesse took to the floor. The roles were defined by their characters, then the skill sets developed.

Says Jesse: “Our similarities define the business more than our differences: Jamie does the cooking and grocery ordering. She manages stock levels and the kitchen team. I do more of the accounting and front of house. The wine I generally take on too.

“So, in the everyday implementing of the dishes, that’s Jamie. But if we’re developing a new dish or changing the menu, we work together. We trawl the cookbooks and brainstorm ideas.”

Their sisterhood also has a positive influence on day-to-day operations. They’re very similar, which makes working together easier. “We understand each other without needing to communicate it explicitly,” says Jamie. Adds Jesse: “We have the same standards and vision, most of the time. So sometimes if there is a gulf, we’ve learnt over the years how to manage it.”


Jesse Friedberg enjoys interacting with customers while her twin sister, Jamie, is in the Between Us kitchen.

THE FORMULA

Their formula, if you can call it that, is based on comforting food and a stylish yet welcoming environment. So oxtail ragu, with pappardelle, Parmigiano and pecorino shavings is a satisfying favourite. Miniature chicken pie beehives are a lunchtime hit. Porcini risotto is enjoyed by vegetarians and carnivores alike. Made inhouse, hot-smoked salmon delivers vibrant flavours alongside grilled artichoke and organic greens. As Jamie puts it, “the kind of food you can return to every day”.

“Our brisket is also outstanding – Jamie and I had a big debate about whether anyone would ever order brisket in a restaurant, and it turned out to be a bestseller,” adds Jesse. “We serve a dollop of black olive aioli, with blistered green beans.”

On the sweet side, there’s a “best in town” baked cheesecake with stone fruit compote, or simple cakes – perhaps pistachio and almond loaf, or warm whisky and Karoo date cake.

After spending time in their establishment it’s clear that the key to the Between Us success is that not much has changed. The sisters’ keen eye for quality and aesthetics is evident in handcrafted wooden sash windows and shutters, and elegant kiaat dining tables – casually curated details that fit well with the uncomplicated, eye-catching dishes, without making the space feel intimidating. Lana F of Myuzu looks after the fresh flowers. Says Jess: “We haven’t skimped on the flower budget since reopening; it’s non-negotiable as it lifts our spirits!”


Uncomplicated comfort food is the order of the day at Between Us

COPING WITH COVID

Of course, the pandemic had a devasting effect on the hospitality industry, and Between Us has not been spared. The Friedbergs have been grateful for the support of loyal customers. “We knew we had to open fully when we reopened. We didn’t have another false start in us. Morale-wise it’s exhausting,” recalls Jesse.

The restaurant has traded again since October 2020. Adds Jamie: “Our tables are already socially distanced to begin with, so we haven’t had to change much for Covid-19. We have big breezy windows. And with our staff, we’ve reiterated the importance of wearing face masks.”

Between Us is a place where regulars catch up over breakfast or dinner with a couple of friends, or business colleagues arrive to meet clients for working lunches. “Our lunches are quieter since Covid,” says Jesse. “But Chambers are nearby, so sometimes the lawyers march up the hill.”

It hasn’t been an easy trading year. “It was a blood bath; you learn how deep your reserves are. There was a recession before, and this is the hospitality industry.”

Hard lessons were learnt. “Mostly, that we’re resilient,” says Jesse. “I guess it made us realise how much we love this space. We created her. She [the building] is like an extension of Jamie and myself. We began to miss her.”

I ask about plans for 2021. “Our business plan is to stay alive, that’s our plan,” says Jesse. “To keep the ship clear of icebergs. It’s way too soon to think about anything other than that.”

Between Us. Open Mon to Sat for breakfast and lunch until 16h00; * Tues to Sat for dinner. The restaurant also has an online delicatessen (collections only). See https://betweenus.capetown/delicatessen/ for details.

IMAGES: SUPPLIED

Tags: Between Us Jesse Friedman Jamie Friedman Bree St Cape Town CBD restaurants