Which is where Cuisson comes in. They’ve turned the concept of a pop up on its head, instead inviting us to pop down to their interactive, five-course dining experience. Based in the airy, ex-factory space of 1 Cathedral Street (a stone’s throw away from Borough Market), it feels more like a private dinner party than a restaurant experience. The concept is simple: one dining table, chefs who have cut their teeth at Le Gavroche and The Fat Duck, and an ever-changing, five-course menu with ingredients sourced as locally as can be — from the market, which is literally a few steps away.
As soon as we arrive, we’re escorted into the Ikagi bar (a Japanese word for ‘reason for being) for a chef-designed cocktail. The Passionata: passion fruit, vodka and rum over ice, is an unassumingly boozy start to the evening (not that we’re complaining) before we’re ushered upstairs in groups to join the main event.
After a spoken introduction from the organisers, the chefs begin plating up right in front of our eyes — and we’re actively encouraged to go up, ask questions, Instagram the food, or even don some blue gloves and start zesting lime over the ceviche. The menu is Pan-Asian, helpfully detailing where the meat, veg and fish are sourced from — something that causes slight confusion when we spot the word Turnips written next to the dessert, before realising it’s the name of a Borough market supplier.
Appetisers consist of a single prawn wanton (which we’ll assume is a pun rather than a spelling mistake), served on a bed of tangy tomato and chili sauce, followed by (to-die-for) melt-in-the-mouth ceviche with yuzu, wasabi, soy and radish. Next up, the seared duck and hazelnuts floating on a honey-soy sauce makes us wish it was socially acceptable to tip your plate to your face and drink from it, alongside a side of plum and cucumber salad peppered with seeds that we might just have to try and replicate at home.
Hearing the phrase five courses, you might imagine limping home, clutching your stomach and crying, but Cuisson’s thoughtfully balanced menu is just the right balance of filling and light. The final savoury course is buta shōga yaki — a Japanese dish of grilled ginger pork, which arrives with cabbage and beansprouts on communal plates for us to share with the people next to us, also encouraging inter-party chatter and the casual dinner party vibe.
Whether dessert — given the understated name of coconut, kaffir lime, pineapple — can top the previous courses is doubtful. But the crumbly, biscuit dish that’s put in front of us, with a creamy coconut foam laid over it and chunks of sweet pineapple at the base, tastes something like the most delicious granola ever.
Anyone who’s worked in a kitchen will know about the thrill and excitement of seeing chefs in action. At POPdown (think candles over harsh strip lighting) where you can watch some of the capital’s most up and coming cooks under a microscope, and even chat to them while they’re doing it. What more could you want? A green tea flavour Kit Kat?
POPdown is at 1 Cathedral Street, London Bridge and continues until January 2017. A ticket costs £45 and can be found here: www.cuisson.co.uk/section/140/1/popdown