There are few times that food tastes as good as it does when eaten outdoors by a campfire—even the most charred hotdog somehow becomes delicious when enjoyed in the wild. With summer still far too many months away, Londoners can at least recapture some of that same magic at The Art of Dining’s latest pop-up restaurant: Gone Camping.
The Art of Dining is run by chef Ellen Parr, who earned her stripes working at popular London restaurant Moro, and designer Alice Hodge, who creates the detailed worlds for the pop-up experiences. Together they’ve previously hosted pop-ups like Hackney-on-Sea (inspired by a 1970s British beach holiday) and The Color Palate, for which the food, drink, room, music, table, cutlery and mood changed color with each course.
This time around, it was the quintessential family-bonding experience of camping that inspired the five-course meal at East London’s Pickle Factory. “We decided on camping as the theme because we both love “Nuts in May” (Mike Leigh’s 1975 film about a couple’s camping adventure) and Ellen bought 20 gas lanterns when traveling in Kenya,” Hodge tells CH. “It was a theme very different from all our others, and suited the venue. We tend to find the venue first and then think of a theme that can fit within it well.”
Themed pop-ups run a risk of becoming gimmicky, but the quality of the food at Gone Camping—combined with the smoky woodfire smell and a soundtrack heavy on Neil Young and other folk music—makes for a fun, summery food experience. The five courses were created to “encapsulate the fun, experimental, sometimes charcoaled flavors of camping” and include both a fragrant Thai BBQ-style dish and an update on the classic camping favorite: the marshmallow. Hodge says her and Parr’s top camping food is “anything BBQed, our favorite way to cook,” and it’s a testament to Parr’s skills that they’ve created perhaps the world’s first upscale camping food experience.
The Gone Camping pop-up will be open until 22 January at Pickle Factory (13-14 The Oval, London E2 9D).
Images courtesy of Sophia Schorr-Kon