“When a man [ahem, or woman] is tired of London, he is tired of life.” It was the celebrated author Samuel Johnson who said this, and to be honest, we reckon he was on to something. Sure, we have all spent weekends on the couch in our pyjamas WhatsApping our mates about how bored we are and that we’ve got nothing to do, but let’s be real, we’re lying and just being lazy.
That’s because in fact, there is always something new to do or try out in London. One of the most exciting (and sometimes baffling) things about our fair city is the continuous supply of pop up restaurants, bars and events that grace her streets. What exactly is a pop up we hear the uninitiated cry? Well, it’s best described as a new space that offers something a little different to the norm, and is only around for a limited time. London is chock-full of pop ups that are just waiting to be discovered, whether it be something as simple as a preview of a hot new restaurant, or something as bizarre as a drinking den themed around being in prison (yes Alcotraz, we’re looking at you).
The only difficult thing with London pop ups is that there’s an awful lot of them, and it can be tough to work out which ones are actually legit and which were conceived on the back of a Wetherspoons napkin. There’s no need to worry though, as here at SquareMeal, we’ve made it our mission to pound the pavements of the capital looking for the latest and greatest pop ups in town. We regularly update this page with all of the latest London pop up launches, so you know which ones are actually worth your time. So, all that's left for you to do is get out there and enjoy them.
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Pop up London restaurants
Some of London’s most successful restaurants started out life as pop ups. Want to know what the next big thing on the capital’s dining scene will be before it sets up shop permanently? Stay ahead of the curve by visiting one of these pop up restaurants.
Jardin Blanc at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Chelsea
When: 19-23 May
Pop up: As if the Chelsea Flower Show wasn't a classy enough event already, renowned Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc will once again be curating temporary garden restaurant Jardin Blanc at the 2020 event. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the show, Jardin Blanc will be offering an exclusive menu full of seasonal dishes. There will also be a variety of cocktails on offer at the restaurant and even a cooking demonstration from the man himself on the Friday.
Where: Royal Hospital Chelsea, SW3 4SR
Coqbull at The Lock Tavern, Camden
When: From 20 March
Pop up: With multiple sites already in Ireland, chicken and burger chain Coqbull is bringing its indulgent food to London in the form of a residency at The Lock Tavern in Camden. With a menu full of irresistible dishes such as chicken wings in buffalo sauce, as well as an all-day breakfast burger featuring bacon, black pudding, avocado, a fried egg and hollandaise sauce, there’s certainly no danger of still being hungry when you leave.
Where: 35 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ
Lobster Royale at Burger & Lobster, various locations
When: Until 25 March
Pop up: Sound the trumpets, everyone’s favourite surf 'n’ turf restaurant chain Burger & Lobster has launched a limited edition burger for just two weeks, and it sounds epic. The Lobster Royale sees a whole buttermilk-fried lobster tail sandwiched in a brioche bun with lettuce, tomatoes, a decadent lobster mayo, homemade cucumber pickles, red onion and an herb ranch dressing. If fans love it, there's a chance it could become a permanent feature on the menu - so the power's in your hands (quite literally).
How much: £20 including fries
Where: Available at all nine sites across London and for delivery
Michael Thompson at Crispin, Spitalfields
When: 10 March to 25 April
Pop up: Michael Thompson, former head chef of Cub, will be bringing his sustainability-led style of cooking to café and restaurant Crispin for six weeks. The latest in a series of guest chef residencies for the Spitalfields restaurant, Thompson is going to be cooking luxury dishes which also demonstrate sustainable practices. Expect dishes including Jersey Royals with wild garlic and a chicken fat vinaigrette, as well as puddings such as Hogweed, whisky, pear and buckwheat popcorn.
Where: Pavilion on The Corner, White's Row, E1 7NF
Wheelcake dessert bar at Selfridges, Marylebone
When: 4 March – 28 April
Pop-up: If Pancake Day has left you wanting more, this new drool-inducing dessert bar has got you covered. Wheelcake Island specialises in fluffy Taiwanese pancakes stuffed with custard and its pop-up in Selfridges Food Hall will be offering three flavours; vanilla, chocolate, and one made with adzuki beans filled with a very ‘Instagramable’ green matcha custard. You’ll also get to watch the bakers in action as they make each wheelcake to order. Flippin' delicious!
How much: £3 each or three for £7
Where: Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
The Yard by Kelis and Deliveroo, Hackney
When: 18-19 March
Pop up: In perhaps the best marketing move of 2020 so far, megastar Kelis will literally bring her milkshakes to The Yard, which is the name of a new pop up collaboration between her and Deliveroo. To celebrate the 20 year anniversary of her first album Kaleidoscope, the singer will serve up shakes all inspired by tracks on the album. Expect to sip on the likes of Millionaire (a millionaire shortbread milkshake topped with edible gold, edible $100 bills and chocolate coins) or Trick Me – an entirely vegan coconut milkshake finished off with a sprinkling of vegan marshmallows.
Where: 46 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3EP (also available on Deliveroo)
Angie Mar at New Street Grill, City
When: 9-14 March
Residency: Much-lauded New York chef Angie Mar is bringing the food which has won her rave reviews at The Beatrice Inn over to London for just one week. Taking over the kitchen at Liverpool Street’s New Street Grill, she will be cooking her classic meat-focused style of food using large cuts of beautiful produce. The menu will be headlined by her roast duck flambé served with cherry jus and fingerlings Lyonnaise, inspired by her childhood memories of Peking duck.
Where: 16A New Street, EC2M 4TR
When: For four months from 10 March
Pop up: The latest concept to take over at pop up site 10 Heddon Street, Fallow is the brainchild of two former Dinner by Heston chefs. The menu champions ‘root to stem’ and ‘nose to tail’ dining, which translates into dishes such as corn ribs with chicken scratchings or hen keema with pullet egg, kohlrabi and Salmon, horseradish, bone marrow and parsley.
Where: 10 Heddon Street, W1B 4BX
Plant-Based Pit Stop, King's Cross
When: Open daily from 7am, for the next three months
Pop up: Based in one of the large grey cylinderical buildings just outside King’s Cross station, Plant-based Pit Stop houses four separate vegan food and drink vendors. Describing itself as a hub for plant-curious Londoners, food on offer varies from salad bowls to vegan cupcakes as well as plant-based crepes from Pipoca. If you’re just popping in for a drink, expect plant-based smoothies from organic café Mother Works.
Where: King's Cross Square, N1C 4DE
The Nitery by Gizzi Erskine at St Martins Lane Kitchen, Covent Garden
When: 13 February to 30 April
Residency: Food writer and chef Gizzi Erskine is the woman behind this sophisticated pop up at St Martins Lane Kitchen, which serves playful updates on classic British, French and American dishes. The Nitery serves both weekend brunch and Sunday roasts, while during the week you can expect to find dishes such as devilled eggs with roast chicken crackling or Flagoelet dauphinoise with goat cutlets.
Where: 45 St. Martin’s Lane London, WC2N 4HX
Alter at Counter Culture, Clapham
When: 7 January to 28 March
Residency: The latest residency to set up shop at Counter Culture (the little sister to Robin Gill’s The Dairy) is Alter, an all-vegan offering inspired by international street food favourites. Dishes will change throughout the residency, but on the opening menu you can expect to find the likes of crispy roti with sweetcorn chaat, and spicy mapo tofu.
Where: 16 The Pavement, SW4 0HY
When: Until July
Pop Up: Following a string of successful short-and-sweet pop ups around London and a glowing review from ES Magazine critic Jimi Famurewa, Filipino outfit Sarap is sticking around for a while longer, with a six month gig in Brixton Village. Expect to try the signature slow-roasted pork belly stuffed with spices, as well as other Filipino-style snacks.
Where: Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PS
Pop up London bars
We often wake up the morning after a night out cursing the bar that served up such irresistible cocktails. The good news about London pop up bars? They won’t be around for long! Get sipping while you still can and worry about the consequences later.
Nine Lives at Abigail's Bar, Southwark
When: 12-14 March, 5-11pm; 15 March 1-8pm
Pop Up: Popular bar Nine Lives is bringing its sustainable drinks concept over to neighbouring Abigail's Bar in Vinegar Yard for four days only. Using 'waste' ingredients from various Vinegar Yard food vendors, the talented bartenders have created a selection of cocktails which can be paired with popular dishes. Expect drinks such as The Angela Cooper which is paired with Baba G’s pachos and features vodka, tamarind, turmeric, leftover mango pulp and sherry infused with surplus mint stalks.
Where: 72-82 St Thomas Street, SE1 3QX
Mix It at Montague on the Gardens Hotel, Holborn
When: 29 February–9 May, 6-8pm on Fridays, 3-5pm and 6-8pm on Saturdays
Pop Up: Offering a bottomless interactive cocktail-making experience, Mix It is once again popping up on the garden terrace of Bloomsbury’s Montague on the Gardens hotel after launching last year. For £45 per person, guests will have a two-hour slot during which they can mix themselves as many cocktails as they wish, using the hotels wide selection of spirits and mixers. With an expert bartender on hand to advise, as well as a list of cocktail ideas, guests will become mixology experts in no time.
Where: 15 Montague Street, WC1B 5BJ
Bar El Rincón at Varnishers Yard, King's Cross
When: Opens 4 March for one year
Pop Up: Bar El Rincón is the latest offering from restaurant group Camino. Popping up in Varnishers Yard at King's Cross, this new wine and tapas bar has a focus on sustainability, so its small but carefully chosen selection of wines are all available on tap to reduce waste. Expect Spanish wines and of course Sangria, alongside a few cocktail options too. This is all accompanied by a variety of wonderful tapas prepared by Camino’s executive chef Nacho del Campo.
Where: The Regent Quarter, Varnishers Yard, N1 9FD
Pop up London events
There’s always something to do in the capital, so the next time your mate texts you telling you how bored they are, suggest one of these awesome London pop up events. You’ll get serious cool points, plus you get to try out something or somewhere new – always worth a go in our opinion.
Exchange miles for pints at The Runaway Pub, Soho
When: The first challenge runs from 2-29 March and runners can redeem their free pints every Sunday between 8-29 March from 12pm-5pm
Pop-up: Struggling to get out of the pub and into your gym gear? This genius new pop-up might be all the motivation you need. The Runaway pub in Soho has teamed up with New Balance and Strava to offer Londoner’s the chance to obtain pints in exchange for the number of miles they’ve run. The four challenges will vary on a month-by-month basis but for the first one runners will need to cover 100 miles in a month in order to earn themselves two free pints for every 25 miles covered; a great incentive for those enduring London Marathon training.
Where: The Runaway Pub, 59 Greek Street
Waffle Week at Duck & Waffle, City
When: 23-29 March
Pop up: To mark the upcoming National Waffle Day (25 March), Duck & Waffle will be hosting an entire week dedicated to them. Executive chef Elliot Grover has designed a menu of sweet and savoury waffles, with options to choose from including a Victoria Sponge Waffle (strawberry jam, Chantilly cream, fresh strawberries) and a Duck Benedict waffle topped with braised duck leg, a hen’s egg and sriracha.
Where: 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Darling Dog Brunch Club at Hello Darling, Waterloo
When: 27-28 March 2020
Pop-up: It can be tough to separate yourself from your dog when the weekend comes around so Hello Darling are hosting a special dog brunch club so that you don’t have to. You’ll be presented with two menus – one for you, and one for your four-legged friend. Dog-friendly dishes can be washed down with a little pawsecco while you can enjoy 90 minutes of unlimited cocktails with your brunch options. Alongside all the classics are more unusual dishes including celeriac and burnt onion baked eggs with za’atar and yoghurt and French toast with caramelised apple and crispy bacon.
Where: 131 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UR
House of Holi at Cinnamon Kitchen City, Liverpool Street
When: 2-15 March 2020
Pop Up: Returning for its sixth residency, paint powder-throwing pop up House of Holi will be back at Cinnamon Kitchen in the City this March to mark the Indian festival of colour. While it’s there, you will be able to chuck handfuls of paint powder everywhere, as well as enjoying food from a pop-up chaat counter on site. So whether you need to destress, want a fun evening with your friends, or simply just want to be covered head-to-toe in paint, get yourself to House of Holi before it’s gone for another year.
Where: Cinnamon Kitchen, 9 Devonshire Square, EC2M 4YL
For more dining inspiration, visit our Best Lists page, which features curated lists of restaurants categorised by cuisine, occasion, price and more.