THERE WAS a time when a restaurant used to be the pillar of a community, when the opening of one was front-page stuff and the closing akin to the passing away of a long-cherished friend. Time seemed to move slower and it seemed that a place that could serve honest food with a sincere sense of hospitality could pretty much exist forever. People never tired of going back no matter how static the menu remained.
But that was then. Today, a restaurant than can survive the first six months is a success story to be much lauded and fussed over. Let’s be honest, any place that manages to live through the scrutiny of scribes in every format—from online to blogs, social media to micro-blogs and all other forms of dissipation in between—could well be a place that would manage to do brisk business even if it was on the border of two feuding countries!
And just when we were getting used to the idea of short-stay eateries and just as the notion of dealing with the premature departure of a delicatessen was dawning on us, a new concept has come along that is making these fly-by-night places seem almost stationary. This is the pop-up phenomenon and it is taking the world by storm.
It is a great idea really: imagine that you once visited a restaurant where the chef regaled you with his ideas all meticulously interpreted plate after plate. Unfortunately, his set-up was too remote to be accessed regularly and too intricate to be replicated elsewhere without his constant personal supervision. With a pop-up, this is now possible.
The idea of a pop-up is when a chef takes over another place and doles out his brand of food for a fixed period, no more than a few days to maybe a month. When Indian Accent had a Michelin-starred chef come and cook alongside Manish Mehrotra, that was a super pop-up experience. More recently, Olive Mumbai paired with Goa’s Thalassa for a pop-up. Olive Mumbai is currently running a Guppy by Ai pop-up with chef Vikram Khatri present in person. Meanwhile, the pop-up of the year is already being planned, as acclaimed chef Gaggan Anand will descend on Delhi and Mumbai with his quirky version of Indian dishes.
But what about a wine pop-up? Why can’t a sommelier take over a place and do a wine bar in a similar format? We could