A guide to the pop-up and alternative dining scenes in Glasgow and Edinburgh
The guerrilla restaurants in people's front rooms
The List’s annual Eating & Drinking Guide – as comprehensive as it is – does overlook some interesting dining options in Scotland: those that take place irregularly, or in unusual places – often somewhere as informal as someone’s living room. There are now plenty of one-off dining experiences, unconventional places to eat and pop-up restaurants emerging in Scotland’s major cities, and beyond - you just need to know where to look.
Setting the standard for the Edinburgh pop-up scene are Chris and Rachel Rowley who, intrigued by the idea of the secret restaurants they had encountered in London, decided to start their own. Charlie and Evelyn’s Table (charlieandevelynstable.blogspot.com is named after the piece of furniture (bought by Chris’s grandparents) that resides in the heart of their home. Since January 2010 they have been welcoming strangers and friends alike to their flat in Comely Bank for dinner with a difference. The concept is to enable people to ‘eat out, in’, as part of an experience that is more formal than a home dinner party, yet more relaxed than eating in a restaurant. Chris and Rachel are currently taking time out to welcome a new Rowley to the world, but plan to return to the world of pop-up dining in a few months.
Meanwhile chef Mark Porter and his wife Mary have picked up the mantle, hosting Dinner at Kitchen Porter’s from their home in Corstorphine. In keeping with the underground theme, you can find details of the next date via Twitter, where you can also find their email address. Despite having made the move to London, Philip Dundas still returns to Edinburgh periodically to host PipsDinners (pipsdish.co.uk), a supper club which pops up in various locations around the city. Visit his website for news of the next date.
Angela Dolan tapped into the zeitgeist and our enduring love for afternoon tea last year when she launched Queen of Tarts (facebook.com/QueenofTartsEdinburgh), a unique venture that she runs once a month from her sitting room. Tables are laid with pristine white cloths, silver cutlery and pretty vintage china cups and saucers, all to accommodate a delectable feast of savoury and sweet treats. Tickets sell out quickly for these tea parties so it’s worth keeping an eye on the Facebook page for updates.
In Glasgow, Authentic Curry House (authenticcurryhouse.com) is a monthly evening run by Alex and Sally, residents of Glasgow Harbour. Dinner is served at The Annexe in Partick, where there’s room for 30 people to enjoy a four-course vegetarian meal. Or if you’d prefer to do the cooking and want to know how to make a genuine curry, native Bombayite Rachna Dheer will come to your home and give you a personalised Indian cooking class under the guise of Ladyfingers Cooking (on.fb.me/ladyfingers). Don’t expect chasni or tikka, just good honest and authentic Indian food (she can also cook dinner for you and your friends, as long as there’s at least four of you). And if you’re good at following instructions, Dinner Cube (dinnercube.co.uk) will send you exact ingredients and recipes for your dinner party so you can skip the bit where you trail round the shops looking for the freshest langoustine/ripest avocado.
Lastly, writer and theatremaker Martin O’Connor takes over The Arches café throughout April and May with his performance and installation piece A Hingmy in the Café. He takes the words and sounds of the people and patter of Glasgow, while the audience enjoys a Weeg-inspired three course menu which includes thick tattie soup and a big double nougat for dessert (just like wan you’d get from the van).
If you want to find out more, Ms Marmite Lover (marmitelover.blogspot.com), the Doyenne of the UK pop-up dining scene has created a supper club fan group website which lists details of all the guerrilla restaurants across the country.