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.