With new eateries popping up seemingly everyday, two culinary enthusiasts introduced the novel concept of ‘pop-up’ dining to Lahore’s bourgeoning restaurant scene.

The idea behind it is simple - a pop-up restaurant is a makeshift, temporary eatery that sets up shop for a few days or even weeks using an existing space and then disappears.

It’s a food trend that has become increasingly popular worldwide, as it offers a cost-effective, low-risk means of testing the waters to aspiring restaurateurs, and a one-of-a-kind dining experience for their customers.

Nom Nom — a pop-up restaurant, a momentary delight

Presented by a partner duo, Imtisal Zafar and Misha Rehman, the enterprise called ‘Nom Nom’ lasted three days from 6th to 8th November and garnered a lot of attention.

From L-R: Misha Rehman, a lawyer by profession and Imtisal Zafar, an event manager combined their passion for food for the unique initiative – Photos courtesy Imtisal Zafar
From L-R: Misha Rehman, a lawyer by profession and Imtisal Zafar, an event manager combined their passion for food for the unique initiative – Photos courtesy Imtisal Zafar

“The response and overwhelming interest was something we weren’t expecting. Two weeks before the launch we were fully booked. Every night we catered to about 120 people for dinner," shared Imtisal.

Held in Chameleon at Royal Palm, Nom Nom served its diners authentic European, Thai and Asian dishes.

Both Imtisal and Misha are chefs, having honed their skills through culinary courses from around the world. They whipped up a one-page menu, to limit themselves as much as they could in order to provide exceptional food quality.

The menu featured just one quintessential soup - Tom Yum Goong, but a variety of options were available for starters and main course.

The biggest hits included dynamite prawns, pad Thai, beef wellington and carrot cake for dessert. There was also a selection of Thai fish cakes, smoked salmon rolls, green curry and authentic Italian pizzas to delight one's taste buds.

Green curry with rice – Photo courtesy Imtisal Zafar
Green curry with rice – Photo courtesy Imtisal Zafar

“Our pizzas were very simple yet flavorful but the star of our menu was the carrot cake. Every day, it finished from the stock,” said Imtisal.

From L-R: carrot cake and salmon rolls – Photo courtesy Imtisal Zafar
From L-R: carrot cake and salmon rolls – Photo courtesy Imtisal Zafar

While pop-ups are makeshift by nature, Nom Nom did not compromise on the ambiance of their dining space.

“We wanted people to have a good time so we created a relaxed environment, had great live music playing in the background and one thing people thoroughly enjoyed was a photo-booth in a small kitchen set.”

Challenges of popping up

Pop-ups may be less risky than restaurants, but they come with their share of challenges.

For instance, they can open up at any spot, but finding the right location is crucial.

Another challenge is to finding the right people for your team because putting out orders for 100-plus diners in a small to medium set-up can get tricky. Coordination between staff members of your own team and of the space being utilized is essential.

Also, pop-ups attract diners through social media. There’s no heavy advertising involved. Spurred by a social media campaign, Imtisal and Misha’s friends and friends of friends were in attendance. But with every pop-up venture, bringing in more people and publicizing to build a brand might prove to be necessary.

After the success of this venture, the duo is planning to pop up again on Christmas at the same venue but with a different menu. “A nice Christmas eve dinner or brunch with roast and turkey and quiche. A very sunny out door or indoor setting but something never experienced before,” shares Imtisal of the future plan.

For now, pop-up seems like a new fad waiting to take Lahore by storm. Let’s see if the foodie city has an appetite for short-term, quick-serve eateries.

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