One Star House Party Hits The Mother City

Words: Julie Velosa

What do you get when a bunch of talented and hardworking young chefs pack their knives, head off on a trip around the globe to experience the food culture of different countries and then host a dinner party? If your answer was ‘an incredible and unique pop-up restaurant experience’ then you answered correctly. This is the concept of One Star House Party and you just have a few days left to experience it here in Cape Town.

The team behind One Star House Party are friends whose careers intersected at just the right time. The trio, Trisha McCrae, Kevin McCrae and James Sharman, worked in the industry together and built their first pop-up restaurant in Hong Kong. Falling in love with the concept they decided to take their idea global and the plan (currently in play) is to visit 20 countries in 20 months, cooking and entertaining as they go.

The unique idea behind the concept is that they don’t arrive in the country and cook the same thing, no, they get out and about and get to know the heritage and flavours of each new place.

Armed with this knowledge, they then set about creating a menu showcasing unique dishes inspired by what they’ve learnt. This fresh, untainted perspective brings a special quality to their food and to the experience as a whole.

One Star House Party recently hit The Mother City and social media has been abuzz with chatter around it. The Cape Town installation of the pop-up has found its home in an industrial space in Woodstock that has been converted into a loft-style apartment. With a few adjustments, the space has become an intimate dining area, complete with pallet wood tables and benches made specifically for the pop-up. The kitchen is an open space and the team can be seen whizzing around at speed preparing each course.

Running a restaurant that stands still is challenging enough, opening, closing and running a new one every month must be next level but the team make it look pretty effortless.

Having just returned from Afrikaburn (a leave no trace event where everything you need must go with you and leave with you) I feel as though I had a tiny glimpse into just how much effort that takes. It is monumental make no mistake.

The menu comprises of 7-courses and, what we really loved, is that each dish is brought out by the chefs themselves and is accompanied by the story behind the development of the dish (often told in a beautiful Scottish accent too). To kick off we enjoyed an incredible gem squash soup, served in the gem squash itself. If you didn’t know this already, the gem squash is unique to SA, so the humble veg immediately grabbed the attention of the chefs. What has become known as a low calorie, diet-approved veg, was suddenly reinvented into a luscious, rich soup, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. The gem got its global makeover, and happily so.

The next course was a shared dish of fillet, which had been crusted in biltong spices and hung for 6-hours. The result was a meltingly tender piece of meat with the flavours of coriander seed and black pepper that we’ve come to know and love from biltong. An inspired idea that I’ve not see on a menu before but was really delicious. It was served with a splash of smoked beetroot puree, balanced out with a dollop of earthy hazelnut butter. What was really a wonderful accompaniment to this dish was a freshly baked beef fat bread, served wrapped as a hot, crispy parcel with house-made beef fat butter. Ideal to mop up all that delicious sauce.

From there the menu progressed through a fish course of local snoek, served with barley emulsion and a seaweed oil – the seaweed being foraged from Bakoven, dried by hand and the oil created from that. Another course showcased local springbok in broth served in mini potjie pots. The pièce de résistance for us was the dish of slow-braised beef short rib encased in a kale parcel with miso and served with rich, roasted bone marrow and toasted sunflower seeds.

We thought after that there couldn’t possibly be more but two dessert courses were to follow. The first was a real revelation. A sweet pineapple cheek roasted with vanilla, lemongrass and caramel. Accompanied by a smooth housemade ricotta with pineapple coulis. It was a simple idea but the flavour packed into that cheek was wonderful. Sweet, tangy and buttery all at the same time.

To finish off an incredible evening, we nibbled on homemade rusk granola, dunked into a cloud of Italian meringue and drizzled with smoked chocolate.

The interaction and attention from the team as we progressed from course to course was really special. It felt as if we were really part of their experience here in Cape Town and it was as though we were being served by friends. The fact that they come into a country knowing nothing about it and then set about uncovering and experiencing all that there is to offer makes the process very personal. Catch the last few nights in Cape Town before the team heads off to Italy.

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