Come December, you can sip mulled wine while shopping for all kinds of pretty organic tidbits at Cafe Zoe’s Christmas pop-up in Mumbai, or you could shop at a pop-up sari store and then stop by at a pop-up exhibition for house furnishings by Fabista and also check out a brand launch called Masala as a pop-up shop and installation.
When pop-up restaurants started popping up in Mumbai’s nursery schools and Delhi’s plush terraces as recently as 3-4 years ago, they were touted as the new rage. Surprisingly, they still remain a novel experience for most of us.
So what exactly is it? They are curated dining experiences that offer a chance to taste meals prepared by award-winning chefs right here in Indian cities. They initially started out as a trend where amateur chefs could make and sell homely food in the absence of enough capital to rent a permanent space, but soon the format kicked off at a much more high-end scale.
For a few hours, a few weeks or a few months, a transitory culinary experience is created. It could be a star chef cooking at another restaurant, or a home-based baker setting up a fly-by-night restaurant at your neighbourhood park compound.
The setting matters almost as much as the cuisine. You know, like a Mad Hatter Tea Party in your garden, for instance, is a pop-up (unless you plan to keep the setting for years to come!).
It’s got an expiry date, a menu you wouldn’t usually encounter at a regular eatery, host(s) who would take you through each of the dishes on that menu without imposing anything, and maybe a surprise performance thrown in too – a culinary workshop, a stand-up, a poetry reading, a concert, an exhibition, or even a theme that piques curiosity and starts conversations.
What such a combination achieves is uniqueness, the feeling that this would not be repeated. It gets people excited. It’s that French cuisine in Singapore plating that entices, or Purani Dilli vibe in South Delhi that offers character in comfort, or simply the idea of 80 different cuisines being presented at the race course on a Sunday afternoon.
Admittedly, it all seemed to be Mumbai-centric for a while, but the idea is taking hold of other metros too. Mumbai’s famed Masque, which focuses on the farm-to-fork concept, is holding a two-day pop-up at the plush fine-dining restaurant The Lodhi in Delhi. Their Himalayas-inspired dinner spread is priced at Rs 8,500 plus taxes.
The upcoming Palate Fest in Delhi too has pop-up restaurant experiences lined up. Renowned Chef Gaggan Anand did four exclusive 12-course dinners across India in September. Heck, last year British chef James Sharman set up a pop-up restaurant on Everest Base Camp. It’s time to pop in!
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