Lola Underground

I may have circumnavigated the rave party movement, but I’m right into pop up dining! Held in warehouses or carparks, bamboo groves or railway stations, temporary eateries have been popping up across the world. Now, thanks to chefs James Barnes (Destination Food) and Malcolm Hope (Lola and the Chef), we have our own pop up restaurant on the Gold Coast.


There’s a theatrical sense of mystique and excitement in joining a communal dinner with strangers at a ‘yet to be disclosed’ location. Where will it be held? What will the meal be like? Who will we meet?

Popup 2B We grabbed the chance to join a party of 30 or so people at one of Lola Underground’s first dinners, a ‘guerilla’ dining event, finding out the time and place (Ambarella Fine Food’s marquee) via email.


Dressed up and mentally prepared for an adventure, we were full of anticipation and happy to follow the parameters:

  • Be open to modern cuisine. (Think Masterchef cooking for you)!
  • Fixed menu, no changes or dietary requests. You’ll see the menu at the beginning of the night and eat what you’re given!
  • Set price to be paid on the night. (Believe me, it was great value for the diner!)

Popup 7 We were in for a treat; a foodie’s menu full of twists and turns, deconstructed dishes and a display of culinary technique which showed off the chefs’ ingenuity and skill.

Unami bomb, smoked salt, sansho, speck emulsion, ash, tonka beans…


As we’ve travelled, we’ve eaten all sorts of odd and unpronounceable items, but ask me about some of these ingredients, or to replicate the techniques and I’d be scratching my head. So it’s little wonder that our fellow diners that night included chefs, restaurant staff, food suppliers and educators as well as seasoned foodies.


For the chefs, the pop up restaurant offers a chance to bridge their experience, experiment with new cuisines and dining concepts without the risk of alienating clientele, and without the setup cost of starting a new restaurant. But there’s also the challenge of setting up and working in a new environment, perhaps with a different chef! It was obvious that our chefs were working hard but also enjoying themselves.

Popup 5ASo were the diners. As each of the six courses was served, we travelled a similar journey: look and wonder, taste,examine the dish again, comment, marvel at the technique and attention to detail, discuss the presentation and conceptual execution. With the Ambarella venue unlicensed, it was BYO, relaxed and highly enjoyable. Everyone joined in the spirit of the adventure!


There was something special about this shared experience which encouraged sharing. Lots of dishes piqued my interest. Although carefully explained by Rach, our host, I found myself wanting to know more from the chefs themselves, wanting them to join us and add to the discussion. Perhaps next time!

 Popup 8

There are only two problems with a night like this: it’s over too quickly, and you want to do it again!


To be ‘in the know’, early enough to get a seat, follow Lola Underground!


But only if you’re brave!




Atmosphere BYO Degustation Dinner Dinner Club International Modern Australian Popup restaurant Restaurants Set price , , , , ,

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Please feel free to contact Good Food Gold Coast at ABN : 76 400 146 716