Pop Up Dining, Unexpected Gourmet Experiences



Hotels have upped the ante by offering themed food experiences in offbeat locations, from beachside and riverside pop-ups, to blindfolded dinners served in ballrooms.

In September, Four Seasons Denver launched an experiential dinner series called “EDGE Undercover”, each held at an undisclosed location within the hotel’s 45 stories. At the inaugural water-themed dinner, synchronized swimmers performed in the hotel’s pool and amuse-bouches were served to blindfolded guests. The fire-themed dinner in January had 20 guests over for an 8-course dinner in a private condo on the 38th floor, featuring a “flash mob” salsa dancing couple and firefighter servers. Details are still under wraps for the next event, slated for April. Beachside pop-ups are also on the rise. The Landings St. Lucia, an all-suite Caribbean villa resort, recently launched Callaloo, a pop-up beach restaurant which features farm-to-table island fare such as braised curry goat with cinnamon. In Turks & Caicos, the five-star Grace Bay Club offers themed pop-up dining on the beach every winter; this year it was Biere et Boules (Beer and Balls) inspired by global meatballs.

“We like to have fun with these oceanfront pop-up concepts, while at the same time offering guests a unique culinary experience by taking a new twist on the tapas trend,” said chef Wolfgang von Wieser. At the RiverPlace Hotel’s Three Degrees restaurant in Portland, Oregon, the pop-up is riverside on the Willamette. From May through October chef Thomas Dunklin runs a 10-seat counter with monthly thematic menus, like ‘Tacos & Tequila’ and ‘BBQ, Bourbon and Beer’.

Once a month, a tall communal dining table with highboy stools pops up in the middle of the Two E Bar/ Lounge at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York. The brainchild of the hotel’s two executive chefs, Chefs Social Club’ serves up to 14 personally presented courses to 12 diners; the experience lasts up to 4 hours. Guests of Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives are in for a weekly surprise brought to them by chef Martin Davies, who throws themed dinners in different locations, kept secret until the morning of. Pop-ups have included black & white movie night on the beach with a street-food-inspired menu and Mediterranean fare served in the wine cellar to blindfolded guests.

Mandarin Oriental has also jumped on the pop-up wagon. The New York property just ran a three- night culinary pop-up showcasing the creative cuisine of three-Michelin- starred Basque Chef Eneko Atxa at Restaurant Asiate. Over in Tokyo, Mandarin Oriental recently hosted René Redzepi of Noma fame in its signature restaurant, where he prepared lunch and dinner using locally sourced Japanese ingredients. -AM