Theo Michaels Popup Restaurant Harpenden

400 waiting list, 200 guests, 7 Popups and 1 gratifying masochist chef!

On Friday 26th June 2015 the doors opened to my 7th popup restaurant in Harpenden. That’s now over 200 guests, 7 popup restuarant nights and one very happy (and knackered) chef!

As I sit here on a rainy Sunday morning, narcissistically listening to myself on Nick Coffer’s Weekend Kitchen Show on BBC Radio 3CR, kids still in their PJ’s quietly demolishing the house, drawing on the walls and occasionally pulling my ear, my wife upstairs escaping the mayhem through the disguise of ‘getting ready’ (read: quietly reading her kindle with a cup of tea in the calmness found anywhere the kids are not), I found what I’d call a moment of solitude amongst the bedlam and decided to write a few words on my popups.

I love them.

I love the atmosphere, I love the excitement of the night itself, I love my guests. I’ve become a gratifying masochist (yes, I’ve just coined that phrase myself) as a chef I think you have this innate desire to please people through your food while simultaneously working like a lunatic in the kitchen! It’s a total buzz, an adrenalin rush.

And, I’m always humbled.

I’m totally humbled by the support of the local community and the complimentary reviews. I spend ages designing and developing all the dishes to try and give my guests something unique that they won’t have had before – and that culminates in the night becoming a very personal thing. I literally put my heart on a plate for people to ruthlessly dissect with their cutlery. The whole experience becomes very humbling.

The philosophy of my first few popup restaurants was ‘Elegant Village Food’; taking tradional flavours from my Greek Cypriot background and trying to transform them into something sophisticated, different and beautiful. Even then the dishes evolve and mature, or at least that’s what I aim for.

I changed the menu a couple of months ago to Greek inspired dishes that flirt with Asian flavours and it’s been working really well. But I’ve got a few other ideas I’m trying to play with that will start to define my next menu..

Anyway, this weeks popup was a great success with a wonderful bunch of guests but none of it would have been possible without the awesome people that work with me on the night and the lovely folk at Jay’s deli and the Silver Palate for letting me commandeer their premises.

Here’s a sneaky peek at my current menu for my popup restaurant:

Amaretto Prawns

Pan fried king prawn with a creamy amaretto sauce served with charred almonds and chives

Sea and Earth

Creamy fava hummus with slow cooked, compressed melt-in-the-mouth pork belly sauteed with a pomegranate molasses glaze, pork crackling, zesty julienne of apple and black pepper with juicy seared scallops

Memoirs of Salmon

Delicate and utterly succulent sous-vide cooked salmon, with a drizzle of aromatic basil and dill oil, an earthy beetroot and wasabi puree, salmon caviar, uber crunchy salmon crackling on a bed of wilted spinach and nutmeg

Peach and Sake Snow

Palate cleaner – a refreshing ice cold bite

Open Oxtail Ravioli

A decadent and rich dish of slow cooked and shredded oxtail with hints of star anise, served in an open ravioli, with a soft poached quails egg, scattering of walnut shavings and a rich jus

Sweet and almost Savoury

Sticky gingered treacle tart served with a matcha green tea ice cream and jasmine tea sugar syrup