How did you get into doing pop ups?
We're four cousins with pretty different backgrounds. Ollie, my brother, has always been a chef - and a very good one too - but rewind three years and I was working in advertising, Will was in music and his sister Anna was in TV. We all reached a crossroads, more or less at the same time, when we decided that it was time to pack in what we were doing and go it alone; or, in our case, that meant going into business together. We're from a very large, sociable family who enjoy eating and drinking more than most (and more than is healthy...), so we'd always been drawn to the world of restaurants. Starting our own series of pop-ups felt like a real leap at the time but thinking about it now, it was the logical next step for all of us.
Tell us about your current or most recent pop up.
We started out putting on immersive eating and drinking experiences that combined four elements: flavour, design, performance, music. Under the Shuttlecock Inc umbrella we ran a succession of sell-out pop-ups in London and New York, like Mile High (taking guests back to the glamour days of air travel; think Mad Men meets Catch Me If You Can), Rumble At The Deli (a boxing-themed food fight pitting top London chefs against one another) and The Great Indian Peninsula Railway (an epicurean train journey from Rangoon to Kashmir set in the days of the Raj; seven stops, seven courses). Eventually we got tired of being nomads, robbing wifi from coffee shops next door to the boarded up restaurants we were occupying, so we started looking for a more permanent home... The building we're in now sort of fell into our laps. We pitched Carousel's 'rotating chefs' concept a few days after viewing the space and next thing we knew the builders were moving in. It's all a bit of a blur really. Since opening in August 2014 we've collaborated with amazing people from all around the world but most recently we've had chefs over from Stockholm's Oaxen Krog & Slip and Tokyo's Pignon and next up we've got Gísli Matthías Auðunsson from Matur Og Drykkur in Iceland in the house, followed by the guys from Ned Ludd in Portland, Oregon. It's a real mix. We also continue to run immersive pop-ups out of our downstairs space. Next month we're doing a cockney knees-up set in London's East End in the late '60s. It's going to be lots of fun.
What has been your biggest challenge? Biggest reward?
That initial decision to detach ourselves from more traditional, prescribed career paths was probably the toughest thing of all. Certainly for me. But once we stepped over the precipice, so to speak, everything just started falling into place. It's amazing how supportive people are when you're doing your own thing. We've been fortunate to meet lots of great people at exactly the right time. Sure, we've worked very hard, but it's been a real combo of luck, serendipity and I don't know what else. Exhausting but really rewarding. Seeing those first diners turn up at our freshly painted restaurant will stay with me forever. Nothing will beat that feeling, even if we knew that that was only the beginning...
How long have you been doing pop ups?
It's been three years now. The first Mile High, in an old sorting office in Notting Hill, opened in March 2013.
What were you doing before? Why did you switch to pop ups?
Will you continue doing pop ups in the future? Why or why not?
Yes, most definitely. They give you the freedom to take risks, to have adventures and to stay fresh. Everyone bangs on about 'the Experience' but it's true, it is key; certainly as vital as the food and drink you serve. Pop-ups give you the platform to elevate the experience (small 'e') of going for a meal to something much, much more than that. Something unforgettable and extraordinary (when done well).
What has been the most unexpected or disastrous experience?
When we opened Carousel we got this amazing opportunity to team up with a well known chef with a big, big reputation. We leapt at the chance without really scrutinising how the relationship would work. We were like magpies drawn to shiny tin foil... In the end, there were still a lot of positives to be taken from the experience, but we also learnt plenty of valuable lessons (the hard way) and were we given the opportunity again, I can say with absolute confidence that we would never do it again! All that glitters is not gold...
Curious to see their current residency? Carousel London is located 71 Blandford Street, London, W1U 8AB