When amateur cook and obsessed foodie Angie Ma decided to introduce Melbourne to her hot new supper club business, Once Upon A Table, we lined up our forks and listened.
This Saturday, she along with a team of Melbourne friends and collaborators, will create a home cooked, 10-course dinner at a secret venue for 20 strangers, complete with a theme – Love Your Home – paired wines, beers and sparkling wine. “It’s an experience, it’s not just the food,” she says.
The catch is that it’s completely secret to all but Ma and her team. The diners won’t know each other, the menu or even the location until they receive a text with the address the day before.
The Love Your Home dinner will feature produce sourced from Melburnian backyards, along with local collaborators including special guests Melbourne Rooftop Honey, winery sponsors Sutton Grange, Quealy and Elgee Park Wines, plus sparkling tastings by the Champagne Dame.
“People are super keen for new experiences, and I think in Melbourne, people love the secret element to it,” Ma says.
Ma, originally from Melbourne, is visiting for two months, having set-up the business in Hong Kong two-and-a-half years ago. She and her team of amateur cooks present a new dinner each month (they’ve held 13 so far) and she thought she’d test the waters in her hometown before moving to London where she’ll continue the business.
Each month, the dinners are created entirely from scratch to guarantee a fresh experience. As for the secret venues, they could be anywhere from a city-based penthouse apartment to a gritty downtown warehouse, depending on who has put up their hand.
“Our aim is to put home cooking back on the menu and to tell a unique story through the menu and evening,” she says. The theme is chosen first and past highlights include: Journey of the Orient Express, which took diners on a foodie tour of the countries through which the Orient Express travels, with dishes from London, Paris, Venice and more; Brewilicious, which explored boutique beers and dishes using beer, including beer marshmallows; and Explore the Spice Route, where the team researched the mythologies of ancient spices.
“Through the theme, we learn a lot about food ourselves and throughout the night we take people on a journey,” Ma says.
Then, of course, there’s the food. Ma and her team focus on quality produce and support from local collaborators. As a not-for-profit business, guests simply pay to cover the meal, with any leftovers donated to charity. Each dish is paired to wines, beers or cocktails and tried umpteen times before making the final cut.
For the Melbourne event, the 20 diners can expect to see dishes such as potted ricotta and tempura zucchini flowers drizzled in honey and toasted spices, as well as a three-hour slow roasted lamb shoulder encrusted with bush pepper herbs. Homemade honeycomb is in the offing too.
Ma appreciates the opportunity to create global communities. Chances are that you’re not going to know the person sitting next to you, and many unexpected friendships form over the food.
“It’s all about the interesting collaborators, going to unexpected places and meeting strangers,” Ma says with a laugh.
The event will be held on Saturday February 23 at a private location. $110 per person, which includes the 10-course degustation dinner, with cheese, dessert and wine. There are two seats left for Broadsheet readers. To purchase the tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the ‘Love Your Home Melbourne’. First in best dressed!