Pop up restaurants aren’t a new phenomenon in fact throughout the last decade opening up your front room to an array of strangers became positively de rigueur, customers would swarm in as if given a free ticket to enter Narnia through the wardrobe, bearing their own wine. Not wanting to be left out many top chefs have been taking advantage of this by becoming nomadic gastro entrepreneurs. One of my favourite chefs Thomas Keller of The French Laundry recently took up residency at Harrods in Knightsbridge for a month. Salivating at the mouth when I saw it advertised I pleaded with my wife to book a table for my birthday. Of course she said. Unfortunately on further enquiry it was a £500 per person, set menu……. I wondered how much of that went towards him flying over 15 of his top chefs from the States. Even though it was a once in a lifetime opportunity it does beg the question – what price do we put on food?
Recently we were asked to do a pop up cafe for Milton Sandford Wines, at their HQ in Knowl Hill. Debbie and her team are based in an old chalk mine, the perfect storage for some of the fine wines which they import from around the World. A necessity for a pop up cafe is a venue that is funky and unique, so of course we jumped at the chance, and a readymade clientele to boot. On the day we did a variety of canapés including cucumber cups with blue cheese and crispy bacon, pissaladiere, carpaccio of rare roast beef with rocket, and pistachio macaroons with a lime curd cream. Some of the friends of Milton Sandford had displays and tasting of some of the finest produce from olives and cheese to artisan breads, pates and rillettes. Everybody walked around the venue nibbling samples and refilling tasting glasses that were in a leather cradle wrapped around their necks, quite why we had no idea, everyone had such a tight grip on their glasses one would have thought it was a stressful pass time. But the big hit of our day was a simple pot of homemade tomato soup with truffle oil, which was made using fresh roasted plum tomatoes, passata, roasted red peppers, roasted beetroot (for depth of colour) and sundried tomatoes (for depth of flavour and good stock, of course. Grips were released and there was a gentle friendly buzz around the tables in our little chalky corner of this great venue
Some of the most discerning sommeliers and buyers from some notable establishments were there, so it just goes to show the value of something so simple can go a long way.
It’s been an interesting week with inspirational ideas, so watch this space there might be a new pop up on the block.