Renowned as one of London’s finest and most ambitious pop-ups, the opportunity to try Cuisson’s third edition of Popdown was quite simply too good to miss. Having wowed at The Vaults and cemented their position as the 6th best pop-up in the world at Borough Barista (according to AmericanExpress), I went down to see how this supper club was planning on furthering a reputation that has already placed them amongst the creme de la creme.
Situated opposite the regal Southwark Cathedral, Popdown by Cuisson could quite easily be overlooked and is only made visible by a small placard. Once you’re inside it dawns on you how big the venue really is and becomes increasingly confusing how such a large building could be almost missed. The staircase is grand to say the least and each room is spacious and inviting thanks to the large windows that line the building. Being an old Victorian workshop and arriving on an autumn evening meant you could definitely feel the cold, but with the serving of each course the room heated up until the only thing left chilled was the crisp white wine in front of me.
The Food & Drinks
Bespoke is a word thrown about too readily when it comes to describing London’s restaurant scene but Popdown is not one of these places. Using ingredients sourced just a stone’s throw away in Borough Market ensures a hard-to-beat freshness as well as an excitingly unpredictable menu that relies on the day’s catch and the in-season product.
As a lover of rum the Shoga Punch was a no-brainer for me, served with crushed ice and infused with ginger and lime. Tempted by a Innis & Gunn Scottish lager, the unfortunate soul I’d dragged along decided against his initial inclinations and went for a strong Passionata; vodka and rum lightened with passion fruit (he regretted nothing).
Once we were all sat at the dining table, crispy prawn wanton was brought out with a thick chilli and tomato dipping sauce. Allowing you to tailor the heat to your own individual taste set the tone for the meal; engaging and personal. I was admittedly slightly hesitant of the second course; ceviche with yuzu & soy and wasabi. I’d had ceviche a handful of times in its native Peru and always found it too bitter. I can safely say Popdown’s South American-Oriental fusion blew anything I’d had before out of the water (pun intended). The fish was incredibly tender as well as being juicy, flavoursome and complemented perfectly by a citrusy dressing. I’d heard stories of people drinking ceviche to finish and could never get my head round it, until now.
The fourth course, buta shoga yaki, was undoubtedly the main event. Beansprouts and pickled cabbage was shared between four of us and accompanied with an individual serving of pork loin and onigiri. We were invited up to the preparation table for the final course; a DIY-styled dessert smothered with lime flavoured whipped cream and finished with a dash of coconut. Purposely giving myself way too much was a fun, interactive way to round off a delicious meal.
There’s a refreshing humbleness throughout a knowledgeable team who, once ready to serve, take you individually from the ground floor bar to your seat at the table upstairs. The food is prepared in front of you and our drinks were constantly topped up to the tune of non-intrusive background music. Whether you’re joined by a couple on a date, two friends celebrating a birthday or serious foodies out to get their fix, the long dining table ensures a friendly atmosphere that throws you into unavoidable conversation.
Popdown is not the place for an intimate catch up with an old friend but it is a fantastic spot to enjoy quality dining whilst you socialise with fresh faces. Serving succulent produce sourced so locally is a huge pull and could quite easily be enough to warrant the pop-up’s place as 6th best in the world. But it’s the personal touch of the chefs and waiters as well as the food that really wins here, not only securing Popdown’s position but continuing to push the five pop-ups ranked above.