As anyone who regularly reads this blog probably knows, I’m a big fan of a good pop-up. Whether it’s eating pizza on a rooftop in London or heading to a stranger’s house for dinner, I love the sense of the unknown that comes with trying something new. Maybe it’s the element of surprise pop-ups offer, or perhaps it’s just their transient nature which really appeals to me.
So during the Traverse 15 weekend I was really excited to go along to the Riverside Edge, a new development in Kingston which is home to five “pocket kitchens” in a single space. Built in a converted multi-storey car park on Riverside Walk, you know it’s something different from the moment you walk through the door.
Its cool concrete and wood interior is home to several comfy seating areas and a variety of different food offerings. After the hustle and bustle of the high street, it’s like discovering a secret world.
During the morning we were hosted by Folie Macaron, which was like stepping into a tiny corner of Paris. Run by Henry and Fabienne Jaimes, the pop up serves small French dishes like crepes and salads, and, of course, macarons to die for! All handmade by the fabulous Fabienne, the melt-in-your-mouth macarons come in a variety of flavours and we really were spoilt for choice.
One of the things I loved about the concept of Riverside Edge is that each of the businesses arrived there in a different way. In the case of Henry and Fabienne, they started out selling their wares at a local farmers’ market before they were asked whether they would like to take a spot.
“The idea behind Folie Macaron is that we are not pretending to be a fancy restaurant,” Henry told me. “We serve family food, like you’d be served if you came to a French family’s home and we always use the best ingredients. That is the reason for our success. Making a crepe is very simple, but if you do it the right way it is fantastic.”
Riverside Edge was created by developers Canadian & Portland Estates, along with the charity Creative Youth, which organises the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston. The idea behind it is that pop-ups will stay for between six months and a year as they establish a clientele, which will hopefully enable them to move in to their own premises.
Something else I really liked is that each pop-up is very different, so they are not directly in competition with one another and, talking to each of the owners, it felt as though they were quite supportive of one another.
Another of the pocket kitchens is currently home to Le Bun, which serves amazing sounding burgers and is already a well-known fixture at food festivals in East London.
Manager Ilias Natsis said: “This concept is something really different. It is nice to be able to work with the other businesses and to try to help each other.”
Among those also snapping up the opportunity is Lorenzo’s Pizza Company, whose owner previously ran a delicatessen.
“We were looking for a potential premises and jumped at the chance when this came up,” manager Sam Gould explained. “Our aim is to be as close to a genuine pizzeria in Rome as we can possibly get. I would say the food scene is definitely up and coming in Kingston. We get lots of people coming in to see what we are all about.”
Another appeal of this spot is that it is also a place where young musicians and poets can perform. During our visit we were entertained by the brilliant Gypsy Dynamite.
Robin Hutchinson, chair of Creative Youth, told me it’s an exciting place for young performers to develop their skills. He said: “The exciting thing about this is that it is also a flexible performance space. We are trying to develop a place where people can get food and culture together. This is great to give young talent the platform to express themselves.”
After a morning spent trying out Lorenzo’s pizza and Fabienne’s maracons I was sold on the idea. Paris and Rome in a day? Definitely my kind of place…
I was invited to Riverside Edge as a guest of Visit Kingston. However all views are my own. For more information about events going on in Kingston you can click here.