“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.
Taca Tacos at Brickfields, Brockley
When: Thurs, Fri, and Sat 5:30-9pm, until the end of October
Residency: For one month only, Brickfields bar in Brockley is playing host to Thorne from Taca Tacos, who will be serving up California-style tacos from the kitchen. You can expect everything from chipotle mayo and slaw-stacked baja fish tacos, to pulled mushroom ones topped with mountains of guacamole. Make sure to call in advance to book, as it's been proving incredibly popular so far.
Where: 293 Brockley Road, SE4 2SA
Alter at Leman Locke, Aldgate
When: For six months from the end of October
Residency: Having proved hugely popular during its time at Counter Culture in Clapham, vegan restaurant concept Alter is set to embark on a new six month residency in the Shaman restaurant at the Leman Locke aparthotel in Aldgate. Expect dishes on the menu such as kung pao cracker with "seaweed that isn't seaweed", alongside a variety of cocktails and low-intervention wines.
Where: 15 Leman Street, E1 8EN
Royale at East London Liquor Co, Bow Wharf
When: Friday-Sunday until further notice
Residency: The team from Michelin-starred Leroy are behind this new rotisserie pop up at East London Liquor Co. Expect a simple menu of rotisserie chicken accompanied by appropriate sides such as roasted potatoes or seasonal veg. You can pair your meal with a selection of wines, spirits or cocktails from the bar team at ELLCo, while Royale’s juicy chicken is also available for delivery if you’d rather enjoy it from the comfort of your sofa.
Where: Unit GF1, 221 Grove Road, E3 5SN
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.
Bar El Rincón at Varnishers Yard, King's Cross
When: Until March 2021
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.
Mark Greenaway supper club at The Gentleman Baristas, Covent Garden
When: 15 October
Pop Up: For one night only, celebrated Scottish chef Mark Greenaway, usually based in Edinburgh, will be coming down to London to host a supper club at The Gentleman Baristas' Covent Garden pop-up. In a rare trip down South, this one-off evening will see Greenaway cook a six-course menu consisting of seasonal yet inventive dishes such as crab ‘cannelloni’ served with smoked cauliflower and lemon pearls. There's no need to worry if you can't make it though, as The Gentleman Baristas will continue to offer a menu curated by Greenaway until Valentine's Day 2021.
Where: 8-9 James Street, WC23 8BH
Bubala birthday chef series
When: Nirmal Save - Sunday 11 October; Andy Oliver & Mark Dobbie - Sunday 18 October
Pop Up: Spitalfields vegeterian hot spot Bubala is celebrating its first birthday with a series of one day chef residencies. Each residency will see the chefs create an exclusive vegetarian feasting menu, featuring twists on some of Bubala's classic dishes, including that famous halloumi. Chefs taking part include executive chef of Gunpowder, Nirmal Save, and the co-head chefs of neighbouring Som Saa, Andy Oliver and Mark Dobbie.
Where: 65 Commercial Street, E1 6BD
For more dining inspiration, visit our Best Lists page, which features curated lists of restaurants categorised by cuisine, occasion, price and more.