Pop-Up Restaurants Popping Up All Over

Most hot restaurants follow the same trajectory: Big investment, smash opening with celebrities and hoi-polloi, then the Yogi Berra phase, where "nobody goes there any more, it's too crowded", then decline and close. One way to avoid this waste, and to take advantage of the patio season, is the "pop-up", the temporary restaurant that is built on the cheap and only operates for a short time.

Perhaps the most interesting of this year's crop from a TreeHugger point of view is Studio East Dining in East London, overlooking the Olympic Park and designed by Carmody Groarke.

The architects tell Dezeen that it is all made with construction materials borrowed from the site:

A fast build with a life span of just 3 weeks, the primary structure, weighing 70 tons, is constructed from hired materials borrowed from the existing construction site, including: 2000 scaffolding boards, 3500 scaffolding poles, and reclaimed timber, used to create the walls and floors of the 800 square metre dining space. The cladding material which encases the roof, is a semi-translucent membrane, using industrial grade heat retractable polyethylene which is 100% recycled after use; as with the other materials, all will be returned to the site afterwards and recycled without any waste.

Another London pop-up is Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar, designed by architecture students Paloma Gormley and Lettice Drake. it is on the tenth floor of a parking garage, and is built of canvas stretched over a timber frame.

Last year the Guardian reviewer, Matthew Norman, gave it a mixed review:

The meal that ensued was in effect a picnic, albeit one from the surrealist imaginings of an earlier Paloma-siring artist. As crab on toast, gazpacho and cold grilled lamb arrived, so did the rain. "It's damp, it's cold," one of my friends said to me with his head on the table, "and I f***ing hate you."

"Come on," I consoled, "look at that view of the Gherkin and the London Eye. Imagine being 19 and into bad art, LSD and urban deprivation tourism. It's paradise!"


Perched on top of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris is this stunning glass cube, an exclusive restaurant that serves just twelve people. Designed by Pascal Grasso, it was made in two pieces and shipped in by truck. It closes today, July 1. We showed it last year: Pop-Up Prefab Plopped on Paris Roof

More down to earth is Montreal's Muvbox, which pops up daily.

Created out of an old shipping container powered by solar energy, the MUVBOX concept is a modern-day reinvention of the old-fashioned canteen. Each night the MUVBOX vanishes back into its cube, and redeploys early the next morning at the touch of a button, in less than two minutes!

Harry of Mocoloco reviewed the architecture and the lobster rolls last year:

The house specialty is lobster rolls with lobster from les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, which is down the St-Lawrence river from Montreal. As you can see the portions were generous and the lobster was fresh. A side order of clam chowder completes the maritime theme, it is a shipping container after all. And the pizza had to be good, Müvbox founder Daniel Noiseux is the restaurateur behind the upscale Pizzaiolle eateries in Montreal.

The Financial Times, covering the Pop-up Scene, notes one reason that pop-ups are so interesting:

Chefs have a chance to broaden their repertoire with a new menu or business concept; diners get to feel at the cutting edge of fashion. It's also a treat for architects, who can experiment with no serious consequences: a good pop-in lives on in the memory, others don't - and they're gone.

They can also be green, having a small footprint and minimizing waste. Why build a permanent place for a short patio and tourist season? They make a lot of sense.

Tags: Less Is More