Thursday 26 May 2011
Pop-up restaurants: here today, gone tomorrow
By Emma Sturgess
This summer will belong to Britain’s burgeoning pop-up restaurant scene, so
keep an eye out for what’s happening near you
“We cook outside,” says Sara Chambers. “The pizza oven’s got a massive
chimney, so it wouldn’t work in the rain.” Chambers has been running her
Squisito pop-up pizza nights in rural Warwickshire for two years, and she is a
firm believer that summer is when pop-up restaurants – which often occupy
unconventional spots and appear and disappear faster than the English
asparagus crop – come into their own. The days are long, the weather’s fine
and people want to eat outdoors. Restaurant chefs are more relaxed about when,
where and for whom they cook, while amateur-run supper clubs need to move
outside their hosts’ stuffy living rooms. This summer’s calendar is full to
bursting with temporary kitchens.
Some of the highest-profile pop-ups involve established chefs relocating to
summer quarters. For example, there’s the Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar (until 4
October, dishoom.com), which will see London’s Dishoom Bombay Cafe occupying a
colourful shack on the South Bank as part of the riverside strip’s most
ambitious urban beach yet. Or, for something a little more glam, there’s Tom
Aikens’s pop-up at Somerset House (until 25 September, tomskitchen.co.uk/tomsterrace), where the river views will be accompanied by
cocktails and posh barbecue food. And not content with settling in one place,
Jun Tanaka of Pearl and Mark Jankel of First Restaurant (which includes the
Notting Hill Brasserie), will take their Street Kitchen (streetkitchen.co.uk)
to festivals and locations around the capital.
But while these proper restaurateurs embracing the pop-up movement can only
be a good thing, many believe that fleeting eateries are at their best on a
smaller scale and there are plenty of offbeat projects that will do you dinner
Chambers runs her Italian food business from her Warwickshire home, making
sausages and teaching cookery. She describes her location as the middle of
nowhere, but a typical menu at one of her sociable pop-up village-hall pizza
nights will not disappoint. Crisp pizza topped with mozzarella, passata and
homemade sausage might be followed by pannacotta, tiramisu or Chambers’s own
ice-cream, made with eggs from her rare-breed chickens. If you find yourself
in the verdant stretch between Rugby and Coventry while the sun’s out, check
her website (squisito-deli.co.uk).
Meanwhile, Scottish food writer and cook Christopher Trotter will run a
pop-up seafood restaurant during August’s Pittenweem arts festival
(pittenweemartsfestival.co.uk). Every year in the picturesque fishing village
in Fife’s East Neuk, homes and outbuildings become temporary galleries, and
this year visitors will be able to sample the more luxurious elements of the
locavore Fife diet – cullen skink (a smoked haddock soup), mussels, prawns and
smoked salmon – at Trotter’s as-yet-unnamed restaurant.
And taking the local food and cultural themes even further, the mobile Energy
Cafe (energycafe.wordpress.com), the brainchild of Ella Gibbs and Amy Plant,
sources food within a six-mile radius of their ever-changing spot. It is
cooked using experimental off-grid energy sources and comes with art,
traditional crafts and the odd cooking lesson; they will be at London city
farms and Welsh green sites in the coming months.
Secret supper clubs – paid-for, under-the-radar dinners held in people’s
homes, to which The Man is definitely not invited – have also spawned some
pop-up highlights. Kerstin Rodgers, AKA Ms Marmite Lover, is taking her
Underground Restaurant (marmitelover.blogspot.com) on tour, visiting Bestival
and Camp Bestival (in the Isle of Wight and Dorset respectively) with her
romantic flower-strewn menus.
Back above the radar, Kristjan Bigland and Alexis John are pop-uppers who
work in the food industry but don’t want to open a permanent restaurant. A
cookery teacher and chef respectively, Bigland and John run a Bristol-based
pop-up called Mi Casa (find it on Facebook), whose formative outings were in a
sea scout hut on the city’s docks. They will spend this summer serving
Mediterranean and North African food in bigger and more adventurous locations
– a lovely almshouse in the midst of Bristol’s roaring traffic, and a couple
of pretty spots in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Warm weather, walled gardens
and four courses for £30 from a team who know what they’re doing: it sounds
like the perfect pop-up.
Wednesday 18 May 2011
Bridport & Lyme Regis News, page 10
Friday 27 March
Mercury People, Page 31
Friday 23 January
Chesunt and Waltham Mercury, Page 2
The Gunpowder Park in Waltham Abbey continues to be a hive of activity as a pair of intrepid pioneers have been creating a new focus for the community. Amy Plant and Ella Gibbs, collectively working under the name Pilot Publishing have been mobilizing local volunteers to create the Energy Cafe since autumn. The unique project has resulted in the creation of a facility offering local produce cooked using self sufficient, off grid methods and its first offering fried egg breakfasts were available this week. The duo have sourced produce locally from farms and allotments and harvested wild plants from the park. Ella said “We very ambitiously drew a six mile (10 kilometres) circle around the Gunpowder Park. Amy added “and we would love to hear from other people who know about food being grown in the area. Working from the humble beginnings of a rather soggy patch of grass within the Park off Sewardstone road, the first introduction was a horse box trailer.
After some donations from a local palette company and building firm, amoung others, and use of nearby willow, the team have been creating an idyllic, if eccentric, spot for the whole community to enjoy. “People have been amazingly generous.” Amy said. Volunteers are being invited to help put the finishing touches of the cafe over the next two weeks with a critical mass food search and sunset cook up on Feb 14th. Plus an energy college planned for half term. Amy told the Mercury: “if people would like to come forward we are open to workshops and presentations, for example if anyone wants to build a wind turbine or off grid stoves. Ella said “We want to involve as many people in the area as possible. “There isn’t a common meeting space within the park where people can gather to just have a cup of tea in a hospitable place. It is going back to basics using traditional methods.” The project will come to an end on March 21 with a spring equinox celebration, including a banquet, dancing and bicycle powered film screening. However Amy and Ella hope the site will remain in use by the community for cooking growing and food sharing.
by Martin Ford