Postcode Pop-Ups: Chapter I
20 August 2018
It comes as no surprise that Londoners relish the idea of a good food pop-up. We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to food options, and the concept of something being impermanent definitely intrigues us. The ability to fall in love with flavours and tastes, knowing that we only have a limited time to savour them, is the type of masochistic ordeal we crave for, especially at a time when we are constantly faced with endless options.
1. Rande – Dalston
If you haven’t had any prior professional cooking experience, but decided to give a career in food a go, would your debut event include a 7-course set menu? Probably not, but with great success comes equally great insanity. Despite sounding crazily ambitious, that’s exactly what Emily Rande did when she first launched Rande, an underground Mexican pop-up supper club she started four years ago.
“We feel passionate about Mexican food and how it’s more than just tacos. We want to bring authentic and sometimes very different and challenging Mexican flavours to London. In addition to that, we choose the strangest kitchen-less venues that we can find. We go to places that a lot of trained professional chefs might not dare to touch and create a unique dining experience, by bringing together strangers in strange places,” says Rand, who describes her team as dreamers who are constantly pushing the boundaries of what a dining experience can be.
Dalston is Emily’s home base and is also her favourite London neighbourhood. She explains that, “It’s just a wonderfully mad mixture of all different people from different places, who are very open to trying new things…The most recent location for the pop-up is actually a local laundromat of mine! I was just walking past one day and thought, ‘why not?’ So I popped in, and sure enough the owners loved the idea!”
Rande supper clubs have taken place at a leather workshop (S&M bondage gear included!), a derelict flat, and a warehouse. Their next events are on the 6th, 14th, and 15th of September.
2. Shanghai Nights – Fulham
Emily Plunket and Lily Cai met at university before they traveled to China where they completely immersed themselves in Chinese culture, Learned Mandarin, and explored the many distinct regional cuisines China has to offer. Coming back to London, they knew that they wanted to share their passion for their new food discoveries with a wider audience, and so, The Dinner Ladies, their London-based catering company was born.
“We really enjoy the creativity of designing new supper club concepts every time. We have taken our guests to New Orleans, the Middle East, Mexico, to the sea, and down the rabbit hole - all in different venues across London. We like to challenge our guests with unusual dinner settings; from formal dining rooms, intimate cafes, open kitchens, and even aboard a boat!” explains Cai.
Their newest pop-up, Shanghai Nights, takes place at The Little Blue Door in Fulham and pays homage to the dynamic flavours they encountered during their travels across China. While Fulham isn’t exactly London’s pop-up central, the Dinner Lades have risen to the challenge. “There is nothing like what we are doing in Fulham at the moment. If locals want to try a new pop-up or supper club, it is likely they will have to travel to Brixton or into north London, so it brings us great pleasure to bring something new and exciting to the area,” says Cai.
Shanghai Nights will have its final dinner in Fulham on the 12thof September. For Halloween 2018, The Dinner Ladies have a new event called SINNER, which will take place in a secret location and have a course for each of the seven deadly sins.
3. Sarap Supper Club – Highgate
With a résumé that lists Restaurant Story, Soho House & Co, Flat 3, and Foley’s - no one ever doubted that Budgie Montoya had the chops to go it alone. “Centred around the mantra of serving authentic Filipino flavours delivered in a proudly ‘inauthentic’ way, Sarap London was born out of a craving for my mum's Pinakbet and Inihaw na Bangus and was a means of rediscovering my Filipino roots,” says Montoya.
The Sarap Supper Club encourages guests to join the festivities Pinoy-stye, be they newbies to Filipino food or those craving something from home. Scoring high points on the fusion scale, Sarap Supper Club serves dishes like sea bass Kinilaw tacos (a Filipino version of ceviche), pork Adobo sliders, are Sisig scotch egg, highlighting the breadth of Montoya’s influences. “I'm Filipino by birth, an Aussie at heart, living and working in London, learning European techniques, using local produce, so going full authentic just isn't me!” — he shares.
The supper club has popped up in a couple of buzzy locations like Covent Garden and Seven Dials, but will be starting a one month residency in Highgate at the end of August. Known for its famous literary residents —namely Karl Marx and novelist George Eliot, who are buried in the Highgate Cemetery— Highgate maintains a real village vibe as compared to the hip and trendy areas Montoya is used to. “I was introduced to the guys at The Duke's Head by one of my suppliers. To be honest, I didn't really know much about the area or the venue, but after our initial meeting, I just had a really good feeling about the place and the guys. I really want to grow Sarap's customer base, so being outside of the regular areas where I've operated in the past was enticing to me.”
The Sarap Supper Club takes up residency from the 28th of August until the 30th of September at The Duke’s Head in Highgate.
How can something fleeting give us a sense of security? We live in a time of instant gratification and endless options. We don’t like sitting still, we work remotely, we book flights on our phones, and have multiple friend groups from all over the world, who come in and out of our lives as they please. With this transiency comes the stronger need to belong. Is it possible that it is in uncertainty that we find a sense of normalcy?
Londoners are used to living out of suitcases and can often count on both hands how many addresses we’ve had since moving to the capital. So whether it’s a supper club that brings a taste of home, or a pop-up dinner in an abandoned warehouse; food has the ability to build a community within any of London’s many boroughs. A constant reminder that wherever we end up, there’s always going to be a seat at the table waiting for us.
Words by Ina Yulo
Images Courtesy of Rande, The Dinner Ladies, Sarap London