Every now and then you come across an experience that is truly one of a kind, something so special that you know you are almost never likely to meet its equivalent again. For many people this can be something like a wedding or birth, for me it was dining at One Star House Party.
One Star House Party (OSHP) is a dining experience as interesting as the story behind it. The idea is simple, 20 months, 20 countries, 20 pop-up restaurants. The team show up in each country, learn about local food, delicacies and ingredients and then promptly put together a feast of a menu for a few nights.
At the One Star House Party in Cape Town (stop number 8 in the journey) a pop-up sprang up in the heart of the city in a beautiful loft apartment. An ambience of something cool and quaint was the order of the day with the lined bookshelves, living room furniture and a music system linked to a laptop playlist.
In fact, the apartment was an Airbnb apartment where the OSHP team also happened to stay. Showing up in South Africa, they loved their home so much they decided to transform it into a restaurant. That, and it also meant they didn’t need to take to the streets in search of a different venue. This is the first step of the experience, the laid-back ambiance so many hipster joints work so hard to achieve wasn’t planned out at all, it was really, truly and wholeheartedly authentic.
The whole thing began when three friends and chefs, Kevin McCrae, James Sharman and Trisha McCrae decided to do a pop-up restaurant at a friend’s home in London. The little apartment bursted at the seams, leading to a dream being born. Each of them wrote down 10 countries they’d like to travel to and their bucket list was born. Countries have included the USA, China, Kenya with Europe, South America and Australia on their to-do list.
The first course of the evening was pumpkin and squash soup served with pickled honey and toasted pumpkin seeds. Chef Kevin McCrae served and explained the process and flavours kneeling next to the table. This is how each meal was presented, accompanied by the brains behind it, instead of the traditional waiter. This brings a strange dimension of intimacy to the meal, talking about each dish and its story of how it found its way to the table.
Then came a biltong beef tartar (semi-dried beef finished off on the grill) served with smoked beetroot jus, beetroot char, hazelnut praline and a rendered beef fat focaccia. Aside from being a semi-religious experience there are a few words to describe this dish.
And then was coal-seared snoek served with roasted barley and butter sauce and drizzled with kelp oil. Here is where you meet the heart of OSHP. For the kelp oil, the team braved the cold waters of Bakoven going kelp diving which they later had to somehow drive back to Woodstock and get on top of their apartment roof to dry out. Even the snoek itself they bought on a whim at a fish market, having no idea what to expect when they started cooking it.
The springbok potjie served with springbok consume, barley and poached raisins was exceptional. The kale-wrapped beef short rib on a bed of date chutney and served with bone marrow topped with butter burned sunflower seeds even more so.
Dessert started with roasted pineapple and homemade ricotta along with Chef Kevin McCrae’s favourite recipe to make his signature ricotta. According to McCrae, shop-bought ricotta is the greatest tragedy in the world. I completely agree with him after tasting this dish. The real thing is something of the most delicious custard. Needless to say, the OSHP team make their ricotta fresh each day.
The evening ended with the star of the menu. Warm meringue scooped on the table by the chefs and served with a cup of smoked hot chocolate and finished off with a bag of nut and rusk granola. Going grocery shopping Chef Trisha McCrae was astounded by the aisles and aisles of rusks. So she bought a box of Ouma, and the rest was history.
I can go on for days talking about the incredible flavours and tastes of the evening. But the fact of the matter is, this exact menu will never be served again and all that remains is the incredible story of a group of people chasing their dreams, and creating amazing things along the way.
Besides being tasty, the experience is incredibly humbling. One Star House Party is a foodie’s ultimate dream and inspiration. OSHP slipped into the Mother City, learnt its secrets and created magic for a few nights. And just like a magical foodie fairytale, as soon as they gave a taste of their magic to Cape Town, they disappeared to the next lucky destination.
Be sure to follow On Star House Party’s journey across the globe on their website, alternatively, have a look at their Facebook page where they post updates and videos of behind-the-scenes experiences.
*Article originally published for More Than Food