A couple of weeks ago I went for dinner at a supper club turned restaurant residency. And, as much as it pains me to say it: it was one of the worst dinners out I've had in a long, long while.
I'm usually a very forgiving dinner guest, so let me explain: a two-course meal took two hours to come to a close. The next table arrived 20 minutes after us and were served our order not once, but twice. Dessert took three attempts and more than half an hour to arrive at our table. And the night was punctuated by one very awkward nosebleed – although this has more to do with me aggressively scrubbing my nose ring after being tickled by a heavy dusting of nutmeg over the top of my cocktail.
It was all a bit much for a Wednesday evening, but here's the thing: the food, if we don't talk about dessert, was delicious, the atmosphere was fun and, if our waiter hadn't fed the 'enemy' first, we'd have really got on with the people behind the pass.
It's a pop-up with potential, let down by a few easily fixable faults. But, now, here's the question: what should we really expect from restaurant residencies? Are they a bit of a playground, a place to learn and grow until running an actual restaurant seems feasible, or does everything have to be as slick as the latest openings, with thousands of pounds of investment, a Michelin-starred chef and enough staff to turn around any and every dish in 15 minutes or less?
I think we all know the answer to that and it's a resounding no. And to expect every pop-up to be polished and completely perfect would rob the joy out of a system that's given us some of London's best loved chefs – Stevie Parle and Asma Khan, to name a few.
I've been to my ample share of stellar pop-ups and residencies. Carousel regularly plays host to a fair few of them, as does Great Guns Social in Borough. And although some of them may have had their hiccups here and there, everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe I'll just start by refusing to ever let nutmeg grace the top of my drink again...