“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 Dorchester Rooftop, Mayfair
When: Throughout summer
Pop up: 90 years later and The Dorchester is still finding ways to reinvent itself. Welcoming the return of alfresco dining, the famous hotel has launched a new rooftop restaurant (in normal times, the space is actually the balcony to one of the penthouse suites - oh how the other half live!). Expect gorgeous sunsets over the capital’s skyline accompanied by live music, while the menu currently features highlights plucked from The Dorchester Grill - think lobster thermidor and Waterloo cheese wrapped in pastry and served alongside truffle honey. Worried about the cold up there? Heaters, water bottles and blankets are all on hand to keep you toasty.
Where: 53 Park Lane,W1K 1QA
Right Then at Carousel, Marylebone
When: Weekends, now until summer
Residency: Chef Thomas Straker (formerly Elystan Street and Casa Cruz) is preparing to open his debut solo restaurant Acre, but will first be cutting his teeth at this pop up concept, which currently offers a weekly changing menu for collection from Carousel (and will eventually offer IRL dining when restrictions ease). Right Then is named after the customary greeting Straker uses to start all of his recipe videos on Instagram and on the menu, you might find the likes of potato gnocchi with beef and pork ragu, as well as an optional pistachio and blood orange polenta cake for dessert.
Where: 71 Blandford Street, W1B 8AB
Pabellon at Selfridges, Marylebone
When: For three months from 12 March
Pop up: Venezuelan street food concept Pabellon is the first resident of Selfridge’s new Pop Up Kitchen, which will change every three months. There are just two dishes on the menu, both of which are staples of Venezualan cuisine. Tuck into an arepa filled with your choice of beef, chicken or beans and topped with cheese and salad, or try the namesake Pabellon - a Venezualan rice bowl topped with meat or beans, as well as plenty of colourful veg. Food is served in sustainable packaging and everything on the menu is gluten-free too.
Where: 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
Happy Burger at Allegra, Stratford
When: Four weeks from 15 April
Residency: Taking advantage of its outdoor space, fine-dining restaurant Allegra will launch a burger-focused pop up on its roof terrace called Happy Burger. The short and playful menu includes the eponymous Happy Burger (an Oklahoma-style onion burger with American cheese), alongside fried chicken with mustard Fruit, aioli and pickles and rhubarb and custard doughnuts for dessert. Allegra will also be supporting those restaurants without outdoor space that won’t be able to reopen until May, by welcoming various restaurant teams to cook up five-course menus on Sundays - look out for feasts from the likes of Perilla, AngloThai and Mangal 2.
Where: Olympic Park, 20-22 International Way, E20 1GQ
Roulote from Bar Douro, London Bridge
When: Fridays and Saturdays until further notice
Residency: Roulote is a new grab-and-go concept from the Bar Douro team, which serves a short menu of Portuguese street food. There are just two items on the menu, both of which are available for takeaway; the Bifana (a traditional Portuguese sandwich filled with pork) and a contemporary Octopus Roll. Guests can also wash down their sarnies with a non-alcoholic beer from Freestar.
Where: Arch 35B, Union Street, Flat Iron Square, SE1 1TD
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
Marle at Heckfield Place, Hampshire
When: From 14 April to 9 May
Pop up: Ok, so Hampshire is actually an hours drive from London, but we think this one is definitely worth the trip (dependent on lockdown restrictions). Chef Skye Gyngell, the brains behind Covent Garden’s Spring, will launch terrace restaurant Marle at the Heckfield Place hotel. The pop up space features views across the sweeping grounds and will serve lunch, afternoon tea and a five-course dinner on weekends. Expect the likes of crab with sea kale, lemon mayonnaise and nettle carta di musica, followed by vanilla pot with strawberries and espresso for pudding.
Where: Heckfield Place, Hook RG27 0LD
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.
There aren't currently any pop-up bars happening in London that we're aware of, but keep checking back on this page for updates.
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.
There aren't currently any pop-up events happening in London that we're aware of, but keep checking back on this page for updates.
For more dining inspiration, visit our Best Lists page, which features curated lists of restaurants categorised by cuisine, occasion, price and more.