Couple of days ago I have been watching the semi-finals of “Ramsay’s Best Restaurant” program. In these two episodes Gordon has set the semi-finalists a tough challenge – to create a restaurant from scratch for a one-shot performance. In other words – to create a pop-up restaurant. That is when it hit me – I have heard this phrase before. And so I started reading…
The concept of the pop-up restaurant has been around for quite a long time. It is not a great phenomenon but because of its originality and uniqueness, it appeals to a lot of people. So what the pop-up concept is all about? It is a “here today, gone tomorrow” thing – the restaurant appears in one spot, amuses people with great décor, ambiance and food (or at least it should) only to disappear after couple of days and re-appear in some other place, some other time. The location possibilities are vast – from old warehouses, mills and factories to music halls, private houses or, simply, trucks and parks. And the food can change very quickly – with every new location, new season or whenever the chefs feel like it.
Travelling from one place to another to open a restaurant only for couple of days is definitely exhausting. Menu needs to be created, ingredients need to be brought and bought to the new location, equipment needs to be set up and the entire place needs to be decorated and transformed. So why some chefs are so passionate about it? Apparently pop-up restaurants are great for young chefs fighting for recognition, appreciation for their talents and money to get them started. It is quite obvious that, if you are just about to start your career, you don’t really want to risk spending a lot of money to buy a building, equipment and everything else with little or no experience, as the risk of failing and becoming a bankrupt is pretty high. Pop-up restaurants allow these chefs to check out their concepts, their cooking skills and what customers think about their menus whilst saving money and getting around-the-country popularity. So there are some advantages for new chefs but pop-ups seem to be popular amongst famous, experienced and already loved by the public chefs like Pierre Koffmann (he opened his pop-up restaurant for 10 days only on the roof of Selfridges). Why? Probably because it is a completely different experience allowing them to try out some new dishes and, as some say, have fun.
Would I ever consider going to a pop-up restaurant? Of course. Dining out is one of my favourite ways to socialize and have fun. And if I can get a great food, experience and atmosphere as well as the excitement of participating in something unique then count me in. For me going to a pop-up restaurant is a bit like being in one of these secret societies – only the lucky ones get invitations to join and only they know where and when the next meeting is. Of course pop-up restaurants are not that secretive – you don’t need to wait for the invitation letter – you can just follow them on Twitter or Facebook and make a reservation online. But still… the places are limited and if you are not fast enough you might have to wait till the restaurant announces its next location. Maybe I’m making the entire thing a bit too mysterious but if it makes me want to visit one of these restaurants, I don’t see anything wrong with it. So if you want to find out what the dining experience in the pop-up restaurant is all about – try one! I think I will too. And there is plenty to choose from in October in London. Just have a look at The Nudge website.