The Love Machine: Sunday 7 Colours with Koeksista

Yesterday I attended The Love Machine, hosted by Ulungile Magubane, aka Koeksista, at the Mamasan Eatery in Melville. The afternoon promised Sunday lunch with a difference: 7 Colours infused with the flavours and influences of the world. As Koeksista put it in her invitation:

“As a ‘third-culture-kid’, I spent my formative years cultivating tastes for food and baked goods from a myriad of different cultures. The menu will be a reflection of my favourite tastes to date, a little home grown influence and a serious love for colour and food that nourishes the body and soul! I'm also a baking fanatic, from baking my mom’s annual birthday cake to taking Macaron making courses at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris! I make food and cakes that remind everyone of home--wherever or whomever that may be.”

I expressed my interest in attending almost immediately. Since I first saw Koeksista perform last year, I’ve been following her around the internet. I’m waiting to see what her next musical offering will be like, but I am also just drawn to her energy. Koeksista’s bold self-expression – through hairstyles, clothing and make-up – and her captivating vocal style (I once waited 5 hours to hear her sing) all speak to me. Simply put, I find her interesting.
So, when I saw the invitation I cleared whatever imaginary plans I had. When I saw the menu, I became even more excited at the prospect of partaking of some of Koeksista’s most special culinary memories.

Arriving at Mamasan Eatery, I was struck once again by the aesthetic of the place. Yellow window frames, an array of hanging plants, cute wooden chairs… Add to those the art on the walls and Mamasan has the vibe not only of a place to come to for a feeling of home, but also of a place where the possibilities of meeting and engaging with fascinating new people are endless. (This might be the reason people have chosen it as a venue for intimate events.)

The restaurant itself is not large (most places on Melville’s 7th Street seem to be built in each other’s laps), but some tables had already been reserved. This is a good sign: people are keen to be part of the experience.

I sit by the window, order a drink and settle in. That means taking a few photos of the venue while it is still quiet, and doing a bit of people watching as the restaurant starts to fill up.

Before the starter arrives, I take one last look at the menu and realise once again that this meal will be something of a culinary adventure, because I am not familiar with some of the ingredients. “Poppin’ Purple Passion Salad”: I have had beetroot and cabbage before, but not in this combination. As I bite into a piece of seared aubergine, I make a mental note: in my almost 26 years of life, I have never tasted this particular vegetable. It will turn out that I am not a fan of aubergine, but the blueberries, toasted pine nuts and honey vinaigrette more than make up for that.

Next is the main course. I chose the Jamaican Oxtail Stew, and its accompaniment presented an opportunity for another first. The salad of kale, green beans, carrots and green apples is unexpectedly delightful (perhaps this is why kale is a staple hipster food?), and the coconut basmati rice is such creamy deliciousness that I immediately send my sister a WhatsApp message: “Wow. This is the best rice (that isn’t biryani) that I have ever tasted.” The rice perfectly complemented the beautiful cut of meat, which was cooked to perfection: soft, with just the right amount of gravy.

If there had been an option for a second helping, I would have taken in. And if this was an indication of the standard of the other two main course options, then I am sure everyone at the restaurant had a very satisfying meal.

For dessert, I was excited to try the milk tart panna cotta: “a Boere twist on an Italian classic”. Unfortunately, the dessert did not set in time. However, the combination of the custard, tie dyed vanilla cupcake, and golden fig and elderflower purée (which I thought was apricot jam) was surprisingly pleasant.

Earlier in the afternoon, Koeksista said that she had never done anything like this. I myself can only recall this kind of pop-up dining experience being hosted by older, more inaccessible public figures. What Koeksista did at Mamasan (and what many young black creatives in the city are doing with increasing frequency) created an open space for sharing ideas, engaging with an intended audience (some of whom go on to become close friends), and generating feedback. In addition, this was an avenue for Koeksista to showcase one of her other talents.

It was a success all around, and it has me making plans to host my own dinner party – as soon as I can get a real dinner table. 


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