“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.
The MOB Truck, Covent Garden
When: 24 January, 12-3pm
Pop up: MOB Kitchen has become a household name with its cheap and easy recipes and huge Instagram giveaways. Now the team have a brand new van which will be parking up in Covent Garden and serving food for one lunch service only. Best of all, you don’t even have to pay for you food; just turn up with your own Tupperware and they will serve you a full veggie lunch made from surplus vegetables.
Where: Covent Garden Piazza
Wing Shack, Clerkenwell
When: w/c 3 February
Pop up: Following the success of its debut site in Loughton, fashionable chicken restaurant Wing Shack is opening a brand new pop up in Clerkenwell. With the restaurant garnering famous fans including Big Narstie, this is the place to get your chicken wings. Serving up much-lauded wings every day of the week from noon, the pop up won’t be around forever, so don’t miss out.
Where: 59-61 Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4SD
Cockapoo Café at The Allegory, Shoreditch
When: 9 February
Pop up: For one day only, The Allegory will transform into a Cockapoo Café. On the day, your four-legged friends will be treated to copious amounts of Puppuccino, Pawsecco and Champaws, as well as an array of dog-friendly treats – think cookies, pupcakes and lollipops. Their human owners get brunch or lunch too, plus the chance to hang with lots of doggos.
Where: 1A Principal Place, Worship Street, EC2A 2FA
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: 28 January to 8 February
Residency: Before debuting his first London restaurant in Mayfair, Japanese chef Daisuke Hayashi will first preview the concept at Brown’s Hotel in the same neighbourhood. The hotel’s drawing room will be transformed into a traditional Japanese tea room for the duration of the residency, and you can expect to tuck into a multi-course tasting menu.
Where: Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, W1S 4BP
The Cheese Suite by Café Rogue, Camden
When: 29 January to 6 February
Pop up: Ever dreamt of sleeping in a room made of cheese? Us neither, but we sure do love the stuff. To celebrate its new fromage-heavy winter menu, Café Rouge is letting randomly allocated guests spend a night in The Cheese Suite: a hotel room transformed with cheese-themed décor, as well as a cheese hotline, cheese board games, cheese soap and of course, plenty of crackers.
Where: Exact location revealed if you’re the lucky winner
The Cheese Room at Le Pont de la Tour, Southbank
When: Until 31 January
Residency: Although Christmas may be over and done with, we’re not finished with feeling all warm and cosy just yet. At The Cheese Room, found inside a wooden hut on Le Pont de la Tour’s alpine terrace, between 2-4 guests can book to enjoy a three-course cheese feast which includes a cheese fondue to share and cheesecake for dessert (naturally).
Where: 36 Shad Thames, SE1 2YE
All Star Lanes x Genesis, Brick Lane, Holborn, Stratford and White City
When: Until 2 February
Residency: In support of Veganuary, bowling palace and restaurant All Star Lanes (Brick Lane, Holborn, Stratford, White City) has welcomed the folks from Genesis into the kitchen, who have cooked up a tempting vegan burger and sides. The American Woman features a seitan patty with Whiskey BBQ sauce, onion rings and vegan cheese, and is best enjoyed with a side of skinny, loaded fries.
Where: 95 Brick Lane, E1 6QL; Bloomsbury Place, WC1B 4DA; Second floor, Westfield Stratford City, E20 1ET; Westfield London, Ariel Way, W12 7FU
New Ground coffee shop, Selfridges
When: Until 9 February
Residency: We’ve all heard of using coffee as a morning pick-me-up, but New Ground (a temporary coffee shop on Selfridges ground floor) is taking that a step further, with the introduction of a bright yellow tunnel slide for its customers to try out. It will be difficult to stay in your morning funk after a go on the slide and a latte.
Where: 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
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 these London pop up bars? They won’t be around for long! Get sipping while you still can and worry about the consequences later.
Winter Bloom Bar at Heddon Street Kitchen, Mayfair
When: Until 31 January
Residency: To mark the winter season, the bar at Heddon Street Kitchen has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Visiting guests can sip on a range of St Germain winter cocktails as well as their pick of bar snacks: think the likes of a St Germain Winter Spritz, enjoyed alongside salt and pepper squid with coriander and lime mayonnaise.
Where: 3-9 Heddon Street, W1B 4BN
Winter Bar at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
When: Until 31 January
Residency: January is the month to catch the last of the cosy winter bars that pop up around London, and the Winter Bar from tonic and mixer brand Double Dutch at The Cinnamon Club seems one of the cosiest of them all. Snuggle up on faux-fur throws while sipping on cocktails (boozy or alcohol-free) made with a seasonal Rhubarb & Pineneedle mixer.
Where: 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU
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.
The Rooftop Cinema at The Berkeley, Mayfair
When: Wednesday-Saturdays until the end of February
Pop Up: The Berkeley’s Rooftop Cinema is back for its winter season, complete with cosy accents including hot chocolate and truffle mac ‘n’ cheese. Every Wednesday-Saturday from 7:30pm, the makeshift cinema will air the likes of classic romcom You’ve Got Mail and show stopping musical extravaganza The Greatest Showman – we’ll see you there.
Where: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL
Canary Wharf Winter Lights, Canary Wharf
When: 16-25 January
Pop up: If you’re feeling a little blue about having to take your Christmas lights down, seek solace in this stunning light show taking place throughout Canary Wharf. Perfect for the Instagram set, visitors here will be able to enjoy 25 breath-taking installations, ranging from glow-in-the-dark forests to illuminated water fountains.
Where: Throughout Canary Wharf
London Art Fair, Islington
When: 22-26 January
Pop up: Fancy yourself as a budding art collector? Head down to London Art Fair, which champions the works of emerging British artists (although there are a few international contributions too). As well as admiring what’s on the walls, you’ll also be able to take part in a string of tours, panel discussions and Q&A’s with the artists themselves.
Where: Business Design Centre, Upper Street, N1 0QH
For more dining inspiration, visit our Best Lists page, which features curated lists of restaurants categorised by cuisine, occasion, price and more.