In the food world, pop-up restaurants are all the rage. The idea is that a chef moves into temporary quarters in a new space, city or country, allowing him to share his cuisine with a new clientele while drawing inspiration from local chefs, new ingredients and unfamiliar culinary techniques.
The ancient city of Arles has had its own pop-up since late April, on the terrace of the historic Nord-Pinus Hotel. Since I've been travelling I haven't had the chance to go but my foodie friends tell me the food is really great. If you haven’t been, the Paris Pop-Up will stay open until September 25 so you still have the chance to experience it. The concept plays on the success of the first Paris Pop-Up, which took over the hotel’s terrace last summer.
And having fallen in love with Arles and Provence, the folks behind the Paris Pop-Up have now opened their own place in Arles, where they’ve turned the tables and are playing host to a roster of other “nomadic” chefs. More on that is below.
The Paris Pop-Up is the brainchild of British chef Harry Cummins and Canadian-born sommelier Laura Vidal, who hatched the plan while working together at Frenchie Restaurant in Paris, he as head chef and she as GM and wine director. In December 2012, Harry travelled to London and attended a pop-up dinner. Back in Paris, he and Laura decided to launch their own pop-up, inspired by the “bistronomy” movement...meaning innovative, gastronomic cuisine served in a casual, bistro-style atmosphere.
Thanks to the generosity and willingness of their fellow Parisian chefs, restaurateurs and assorted friends, they were able to “play restaurant” by occupying empty spaces and restaurants on closing days. They offered what has now become their formula: seasonal menus of creative dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients, paired with wines or other interesting drinks.
Getting a great response, the two started thinking about opening their own place in Paris but decided they’d rather travel and not be tied down to the demands of a traditional restaurant. So since January 2013, they’ve been popping-up in Montreal, New York, California, Kyoto, Quebec City, Fez, Barcelona and London. A full list is here.
Since September 2014, Julia Mitton (another Canadian...from Nova Scotia) has joined them; they say Julia brings with her “world-class organizational skills, a love of well-sourced product, an international expertise and the entrepreneurial spirit that fits perfectly with our vision.”
Sometimes the pop-ups are inspired by a wine region that Laura loves; other times, by a type of cuisine that Harry already enjoys cooking or wants to explore in more depth. From there they create a tasting menu and select appropriate wines. Winemakers, sommeliers and brewers are often invited to participate, allowing them first-hand interaction with guests.
In Arles, the menu has been changing every ten days or so.
Starters currently include pineapple tomato gaspacho with yellow peppers, peaches and nectarines; and grilled mackerel with green beans and homemade pesto.
Popular main courses have been duck magret with a ragout of lentils and duck hearts, roasted figs and balsamic; and homemade hand-rolled tagliolini laced with fresh courgettes, chili, crab meat and fresh herbs.
The tapas menu offers six selections, including duck parfait, cured pork belly with fried rosemary and a whole barbecued quail with a miso condiment, along with simpler things such as flatbreads with homemade hummus.
Wines come from France only and start at 6€ by the glass or 25€ by the bottle.
All food allergies, intolerances and other special requests are met to the best of the team’s abilities.
Having spent the last two years working in other people’s kitchens—and having fallen in love with Arles and Provence--the trio decided to open a bistro/bar in Arles called Chardon, in May 2016. There, Laura explains, they’ve reversed the pop-up idea and are hosting other chefs who choose, like they do, to be nomadic. Chardon serves small plates, a selection of wines and an imaginative cocktail menu. The focus is local products with ingredients coming from the region’s best farmers, fishermen, breeders and other purveyors.
You can try the cuisines of various “chefs in residence” until October 31st. After that, Harry, Laura and Julia will be taking back the reins, until December 19.
“The idea behind Chardon is that that we can be there sometimes and we can also travel at others and be elsewhere,” Laura explains. “We want to have a touch base in the South of France where we can hop down to from wherever we open our next project. We currently have our eye on Paris or London, our two favorite cities!”
And now that Arles has been their home base for two summers, I asked Laura what she, Julia and Harry have found most appealing about the region...and what local restaurants have become favourites.
“We loved exploring the surrounding Camargue and the seaside close to Arles,” she told me. “It’s a cool little town and it’s really central to all these awesome places like Marseille, Sainte Marie de la Mer, Nîmes, Montpellier, Aix, Avignon and Cassis.
“In terms of other restaurants, we love La Chassagnette,” she continues. “We often go and have a tasting menu with delicious natural wine. Another favorite is definitely Le Gibolin, a local bistro with frank French fare. Nothing fancy, just delicious and well-priced.”
Paris Pop-Up Details
The Paris Pop-Up runs until September 25, 2016, on the terrace of the Hotel Nord-Pinus in Arles. Weather permitting; you’ll be seated outside, overlooking the famous Place du Forum. In case of wind or rain, seating moves inside.
Thursday through Sunday, from 12:30 to 3 pm
Wednesday to Sunday, from 7:30 to 11 pm
Monday and Tuesday
32 € (starter and main course or main and dessert)
36 € (starter, main, dessert)
Tapas / Small Plates
From 5 € to 20 €
Bottles from 25€ to 300€
By the glass priced from 6€ to 13€
To reserve: firstname.lastname@example.org, +33 (0)7 62 23 46 43.
37 rue des Arènes
Friday to Monday 12:30 to 3 pm
Thursday to Monday 7:30 to 11:30 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday...and Thursday afternoon.
Info is here
To reserve: email@example.com, +33 (0)9 72 86 72 04,
Note: If you have space and might want to welcome Harry and Laura for their next pop up, they’d love to hear from you. They’re open to collaboration with all chefs, sommeliers, winemakers, foragers and producers of any kind or walk of life, etc. They’re also open to sponsorships and to creating Paris Pop-Up events based on specific products or brands. “The possibility to create a concept for one day (or more), inspired by a feeling, music, culture or a theme, is a rare freedom,” Laura says. “The goal is to share, learn, enjoy and have a good time. There are so many ways to collaborate that fit with this spirit of generosity and fun.” For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org.