Pop-up pandemic gives chefs a bite at fruitful food market

Esther Han
''It was crazy, but we did it'': Jared Ingersoll, centre, with chefs inside his pop-up restaurant, Bottle and Beast, at ...
''It was crazy, but we did it'': Jared Ingersoll, centre, with chefs inside his pop-up restaurant, Bottle and Beast, at the back of a dilapidated pub in Pyrmont. Photo: Edwina Pickles

It took just 10 days, but Jared Ingersoll was able to transform an abandoned, rinky-dink Chinese diner at the back of a dilapidated Pyrmont pub, into a stylish pop-up restaurant and bar.

"It was crazy, but we did it," said the former Danks Street Depot chef, as he proudly looked around his labour of love, Bottle and Beast.

Ingersoll, with the help of Summer of Riesling founder Jason Hoy and close industry friends, constructed tables and chairs out of wooden pallets, hauled in their own glassware and bar fridges, and bought bargain stools on eBay.

Waiters will rip sheets of butchers paper from a giant hanging scroll to use as tablecloth. "I had a ridiculous collection of pots and pans," he said. A 25kg pig was roasted and hacked on the opening night.

Bottle and Beast is the latest pop-up restaurant in Sydney, continuing the guerilla dining trend that refuses to die down. Landlords looking for temporary tenants to fill gaps between leases or before a knock down are taking advantage.

Once Bottle and Beast shuts shop on March 31, the building will be prepped for demolition.

It's a similar story for chef Pasi Petanen who opened pop-up restaurant, Cafe Paci, after seven years at the hatted Marque. Once they move out, the building will be knocked down.

Now, midway through the lease, Petanen said the pop-up nature of the business meant there was no burden to succeed. An onslaught of praise came anyway.

"It's a fantastic learning curve. You don't need bank loans and sign 10-year leases, but you can still have the experience of running a restaurant, managing staff and paying tax, in a short period of time," he said. "It's financially viable because there was restaurant here before us."


Petanen has kept costs very low, opting to paint the walls, floors, ceilings and furniture the same grey. The curtains separating the dining floor from the kitchen entrance are from Ikea and the feature light was $400.

Guests have complained about the sticky surface of the tables, but he's unwilling to invest money for a short-term project.

The issue of sticky tabletops was noted in the Herald's chief restaurant critic's review of the pop-up, which was ultimately positive.

Terry Durack said pop-ups had an inherent sense of fun and spontaneity. "Sure you might have to 'rough it' a little, but that comes with the territory," he said.

He said chefs could now use social media to spread the word easily about pop-ups and reach their target crowds.

"Pop-ups can serve to introduce new ways of doing things - a new cuisine or an unusual location - it allows access to a level of chef, talents or ideas that you might not otherwise be able to afford," he said.

Warren Turnbull, the chef behind Chur Burger in Surry Hills, said his second outlet that "popped-up" in the London Hotel in Paddington in November helped him reach a different demographic and expand the brand.

"We might sign a one year lease, so we're all happy and it looks like we'll continue," he said.