He proved he had bottle
Even since the original Thai kitchen takeovers pioneered at places like Old Street’s Bricklayers Arms and Tufnell Park’s The Pineapple, London’s more traditional boozers haven’t needed to go full posh gastropub on us to offer a decent bite to eat.
The endless expansion of the capital’s streetfood scene in the intervening years has also created the perfect environment for today’s innovative and mouthwatering array of kitchen pop-ups.
Here’s a list of seven such collaborations, currently cooking up a storm in pubs found right across the Borough. Some are semi-permanent, others will be gone before you know it, so get out there and get stuck in.
Southern Californian-style tacos, tostadas and quesadillas, bursting with zingy seafood flavours are the thing at this lovely backstreet pub.
The menu eschews any meat in favour of carefully chosen fish and vegetable dishes, such as octopus ceviche on blue corn tostadas or vegan Baja-style banana blossom no-fish with chipotle mayo.
Top tip: The bar excels at cocktails, tequilas and mezcals, all of which are perfectly suited to the food, obvs. Be aware this spot isn’t open at the weekends though, so plan your midweek bonanza accordingly.
Offering a ‘pub menu with an Italian twist,’ Mezzo aren’t shy of sticking creamy burrata and sundried tomatoes in their burgers or liberally scattering their fries with truffle and parmesan shavings.
Combined with the pub’s ever-changing, all-star selection of craft beers, a visit here consistently punches well above its weight for a small neighbourhood boozer.
Top Tip: You’ll need to be quick, as the pub’s rotation of quality pop-ups means a new resident in the kitchen from April (although Mezzo are already here on their second visit, so it might not be the last).
These guys started out doing big communal dinners (yes, for 100 people) before Covid got in the way of all their best laid plans.
Their pivot into home-style pizza has been a hit, with a reputation for killer crust, generous toppings and no-nonsense dips.
They’re big on the sides too, serving all manner of warm greens and crunchy salads as the best accompaniment to your pizza, (plus a pint, of course).
Originally hailing all the way from Down Under (Sydney), these guys are all about bringing together quality meat (theirs is from famed North Yorkshire butchers, Swaledale) and bread, (the buns are delivered daily from Best Bake Bakery).
Despite their beefy name, don’t overlook their Hot Honey Buffalo Chicken thigh burger, (pictured) which is double dipped, then double fried and drizzled in kewpie mayo. That’s some serious pub grub.
Top Tip: Make sure you get involved with the Smugglers’ enviable selection of rums, too, from light Cuban tipples to dusky Caribbean treasures.
This new pop-up at one of Soho’s best-loved hostelries has also created the area’s first 100% vegan Caribbean restaurant.
Siblings Jordan and Chyna fuse a passion for plant-based foods with their proud Caribbean roots, creating meat-free interpretations of all the classics including jerk chicken, curry goat and ackee and saltfish.
Top Tip: Their culinary innovations are strikingly authentic – the jerk chicken ‘leg’ even has a ‘bone’ in the middle that’s made out of sugar cane, making it rather tasty to chew on in it’s own right, too.
This crew smash balls of 35-day dry aged beef into wafer thin crispy patties on a searing hot griddle. It results in the Maillard Reaction, where the heat creates a chemical change in the flavour, aroma and texture of food, for a burger that’s all about the crust.
Served in a fluffy potato-based bun, with decent sides and no compromise on the meat-free versions too, it’s a kitchen pop-up that stands out from the burger ‘n chips crowd.
Top Tip: The Gipsy has a surprisingly big beer garden, but the uninitiated might miss it completely. You need to venture past all that distracting patty-smashing going on in the open kitchen to find the back door, so keep that in mind as the weather improves.
One of the biggest names in London streetfood have got into bed with the shiny new incarnation of Chalk Farm Road’s former scuzzy live music joint, The Monarch.
Monarchy is more about socialising and watching a big game on the big screen these days, and it is also now a reliable local pit-stop for these best-in-class burgers too.
Top Tip: Nanny Bill’s famous mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes are still an essential side order every time.
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