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Go Dine With Them

11 Jan 2010
It's ironic, really. One moment it's all rumours and hushed whispering and being-in-the-know, the next you can barely move for the latest pop-up restaurant (near you for a mere 6 months or until boredom sets in) or 'underground dining' (so numerous now your neighbours are probably doing it). So is the 'pop-up' phenomenon here to stay? Restaurateurs are certainly hoping not. Amazingly Theo Randall of InterContinental was on dear old Auntie recently declaiming loudly against pop-ups on the curious basis that – in his view – diners are far better off eating at established restaurants because they are assured of knowing where ingredients come from, guaranteed better service and – wait for it – value for money. Really, Theo? Really? It could be argued that – given the simplicity of most pop-ups and underground menus (pace, Pierre Koffman, who's so loving his glittering revived kitchen career, Selfridges'll be sending in the army to get him down soon) – ingredient quality is key, as is keen pricing. With virtually no overheads, the newbies can keep costs down and give you actually what you're paying for, without surprise extras, olives for a fiver, condescending service and so on. It might – just might – spur some reluctant restaurant-goers to give their local gastropub or restaurant a whirl. As we've seen, there seems to be no slowing down in the number of pop-ups and underground dining 'popping up', as it were. If they're giving us punters what we want at a price we can afford – and a bit of fun in addition - the established restaurant scene is going to have to try a bit harder.

Hannah'sbigevent - November 14, 2009

I am loving the idea myself, and I am trying to start something in Newcastle.

Ben - November 4, 2009

What is Theo Randall talking about? How much more ingredient-driven can you get than “A big, ripe, yellow Italian peach” for dessert as at The Dock Kitchen? And when we go to a 'proper' restaurant do we really know anything about the provenance of our food? Theo's comment shows insecurity if you ask me....

The Fat Controller - November 4, 2009

I think there's a big difference between 'popping in' to Selfridges to get the chance to sample the food of a culinary legend that doesn't cook full time anymore and 'popping in' to sample the food of a couple of amateurs that have opened up their front room to all-comers. The former I would pay through the nose for; the latter is a non-starter for me.

Matt. - November 3, 2009

Pop-up restaurants can be great, but surely they will take business from established places, which can't be good. Also, you mention about good value, Koffman wasn't cheap!

Lonediner - November 3, 2009

Aren't pop-ups just turning into restaurants that get all of the benefits (low overheads, everything you mention) and not many of the disadvantages (maintaining custom and staff, rent, etc) and then still get to charge restaurant prices? Pierre Koffman was advertised at £75 a head, The Dock in Portobello has main course dishes for over £15, which is more than your average gastropub. Aren't they just becoming a rip-off while taking advantage of our constant desire for the new?