I was strolling down the streets of Chicago on a sunny morning about six years ago when the fresh smell of melted mozzarella and marinara sauce grabbed me by the nostrils and ushered me inside a small shop. Much to my surprise, it was a DiGorno Pizza store that had set up temporarily on the Magnificent Mile. And, they were offering up the doughy freebies. What a great idea, I thought, a “pop-up” form of marketing.
It was the ultimate form of fun, in my opinion — the unexpected (and free) kind.
Years later, the trend-driven phenomenon is still going strong, especially in London. And it’s more (way more) than just food. This summer, 100 pop-up ping-pong parlors appeared in various London hotspots like the Natural History Museum, Heathrow’s Terminal 3, different shopping centers and various pubs — all for the purpose of promoting the London 2012 Olympic Games.
And, in the nature of blink-and-you-miss it coolness, it lasted only for a month. Likewise, in the spring, the “World’s Smallest Pop-Up Hotel,” a modified American Airstream trailer, complete with concierge and mini red carpet, showed up in different tourist spots like ZSL London Zoo, Covent Garden and the London Eye for five days.
So after I roamed clear across London’s West End, Covent Garden, Belgravia and SoHo recently without a single spontaneous pop-up encounter, I got to thinking — can you track down these elusive events that sound so delightful? Or, do you really have to just wander upon them?
Thanks to the Internet, I found, you can get a heads up on a handful. Therefore, if you aren’t interested in leaving things up to luck, here are a few not-so-secret gatherings in the capital city. On the other hand, if you’d rather be pleasantly surprised, stop reading now.
Street Kitchen at London Restaurant Festival
Covent Garden, Spitalfields Market and other locations
Oct. 4 – 18, 2010
This innovative mobile food project is said to be the UK’s first destination street vendor selling gourmet cuisine. Its modis operandi: celebrate the UK’s seasonal scrumptious produce by offering refined bistro-style food made from ingredients sourced straight from organic and sustainable farms. The New York-style street van will be selling a seasonal British menu, serving dishes such as home smoked salmon and braised featherblade of beef. All dishes will cost between £4.50 – £6.50 and food lovers can follow daily updates @foodinitiative and @chefjun.
21 Duke Street
Salon d’Ete is making its mark as London’s first pop-up cabaret. Located in a nondescript building above the historic L’Equipe Anglaise, Salon d’Ete is temporarily open for three to six months. Step inside and wander through a dark corridor to a warmly lit room with a large straw swing. You’ll be seated in the salon, a cozy room with a vaulted ceiling and greenery galore. Behind the velvet curtain is the stage where you’ll be entertained by magicians, cabaret performers and live jazz bands. Note: You’ll fit right in if you wear a flapper-style dress or vintage kimono! Oh, and by the way, you’ll have to do some research of your own to get yourself on the guest list. Entrance is by word of mouth and invite only! Check out Erin Maury’s blog post for more detail.
100 Clerkenwell Road
If you’re searching for a movie that goes beyond teenage vampire angst, Cineroleum is a safe bet. This 118-seat pop-up movie theater that opened in August in Clerkenwell is all about movies with substance. Even better, you’ll find the clever cinematic experience in a defunct petrol station (there are nearly 4,000 of them in London, so why not make use of them?). The idea is the brainchild of 15 artists, designers and architects and came to fruition with donated and found materials like ornate curtains and wooden flip-down seats. Needless to say, the temporary theater has a 1950s drive-in ambiance. Check it out soon, it’s only up through Sept. 12.
For more trip-planning ideas, check out visitlondon.com.