By Natasha Silva
Pop-up dining is a sophisticated version of food-on-the move. Its an elegant extension of the famous food truck, and certainly the sibling of pop-up fashion stores that are also currently all the rage. Although pop-up dining has only recently become popular in South Africa, its been intriguing diners in major foodie cities, like New York and London, for approximately four years now.
The concept behind pop-up dining is to create a level of mystery and unpredictability around the dining experience. Everything from the chef and menu, to the location of the dinner, may be kept secret until the very last minute. Its like a lucky-dip, but with minimal risk. Youre always guaranteed a sophisticated and delectable experience, in an intriguing location, hosted by an impressive chef.
The chefs at pop-up dinners often use the occasion as an opportunity to play and experiment with food, in order to enhance the magic of the situation and location. The results are exceptionally creative dishes that you are bound to never experience again.
Pop-up dinners are relatively exclusive, only allowing a small amount of guests. Patrons pay for their spot and are slowly fed information regarding what theyre in for. Most times, the location of the dinner will only be revealed on the day! Besides the unpredictability, the intimacy of pop-up dinners also draws interest. A group of relative strangers are usually hosted at one long communal dining table at which guests are encouraged to engage and connect.
What makes pop-up dinners exceptionally unique is their temporary, never-to-be-repeated nature. Theyre filled with a sense of magic that is difficult to find outside of childhood!
If youre interested in pop-up dining in its purest form, you need to sign up to SecretEATS. SecretEATS is an underground dining establishment that hosts invite-only secret dinners all over South Africa. Once you sign-up, you will receive invitations to secret dinners occurring in your chosen city/cities. Once youve been invited, you are urged to pay immediately before seats are sold out. Prices per dinner vary according to the chef, menu and secret location. Most dinners consist of a three course meal paired with appropriate wines throughout, and guests are allowed to bring their own drinks too.
SecretEATS also allows you to host your own secret dinner at a special location of your own. Owners of homes with gorgeous views, and venues with unique characteristics, often apply for this. If youre a chef interested in cooking for a secret dinner hosted by SecretEATS, you may also apply to do so via their website.
Spier Secret Courtyard
With more permanence than a one-night occurrence, but still too temporary to be called an actual bar or restaurant, the Spier Secret Courtyard offers a not-to-be-missed eclectic and cosmopolitan experience. Appearing in Cape Town mid-February, seemingly out of nowhere, it will disappear again at the end of April.
Situated in an open-air quad, well-hidden from the public on the CBDs Wale Street, Spier Secret Courtyard is a warm-up to Spier Wine Estates Spier Secret Festival taking place in October. The courtyard itself consists of bare bricks and worn-out tiles, while a European-style water feature adorns one corner of the room. Light fittings made from old wine boxes, and retro-modern dcor and art, perfectly contrast and complement the old-world environment.
Thursday nights at the Courtyard requires booking. Different pop-up dinners are hosted by various chefs and foodies, with each dinner offering a completely different experience to the last. Friday nights are dedicated to live music, while Saturday is movie night, with movie screenings held in the courtyard. On both Friday and Saturday nights, a bar provides ample wine and drink, while hungry bellies can be satisfied with a variety of tapas-style snacks.
Its worth visiting the Spier Secret Courtyard just to take advantage of the variety of Spier wines available for purchase at cellar door prices.
The Grand White Dinner
If youre not into elegant sit-down dinners, The Grand White Dinner will tick all your boxes. This pop-up picnic offers a far more casual atmosphere. Whereas pop-up dinners focus on location as well as exceptional food, this pop-up picnic is more concerned with gathering people in one place and making a visual statement that transcends into a feeling of community and other-worldliness. The dress-code is strictly white, (with a touch of green) and this white theme is extended throughout the entire event, from the long row of white picnic tables, to the white table dcor.
The Grand White Dinner has been hosted in Paris for over 25 years now. Cape Town followed in Johannesburgs footsteps and finally hosted their own Grand White Dinner this year on Saturday the 1st of March. Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Durban are set to follow suit over the next three months.
Tickets for The Grand White Dinner are purchased without knowing the location of the picnic. Guests are informed on the day of the event. A bar, live entertainment and picnic baskets are all available at the picnic.
Add a touch of mystery and magic to your next dining experience by taking advantage of South Africas exciting pop-up dining craze.
All images: Getty Images