Dan Splarn digs in the pop-up that packs a serious punch at The BBQ Club, Southbank
Back in 2011, Jimmy Garcia hosted his first pop-up restaurant from his front room in Balham. Seven years later and he’s carried on to become one of London’s most decorated pop-up specialists – hosting creative dining events that promise excellent food and wonderful hospitality all around the city.
There have been residencies at Winter Wonderland and Stratford’s Roof East, not to mention a sky-high experience aboard the Emirates Cable Car, where the menu featured an Edible Garden for dessert. Jimmy himself said it best: “We can do anything really, we can put a restaurant anywhere.”
His flagship pop-up, though, is The BBQ Club, which is now back on the Southbank for another summer of food and cocktails by the river.
Jimmy’s team have doubled the restaurant’s capacity this year – there’s now room for 54 guests – who sit at two long, communal tables to devour six courses. It sounds like an almighty cliché, but each is genuinely as tasty as the last.
One element of each dish is grilled before your eyes on an inbuilt Big Green Egg BBQ. Guests are invited to cook this aspect of their food themselves – this is a refined, interactive dining event after all – but you’ll find Jimmy himself mingling among guests, ready to supervise if you need a little guidance.
Menus are seasonal and regularly change as a result, but favourites from our visit were plates like the Holy Guacamole – a helping of delicate charred squid, green olive and avocado guac, drizzled with lime and rocket oil – as well as the Proper Kebab which served up an indulgent lamb kebab complete with tzatziki, pomegranate tabbouleh and mint oil in a flat bread parcel.
There’s a seafood element in the form of the Hard Core Prawn (langoustine, roast red pepper puree, black garlic, jamon and smoked almond) and the Char Ma Lass was a dreamy serving of miso-glazed baby aubergines, pomegranate yoghurt and pickled green chilli – a great little starter to get the show started.
This is an exhibition of Jimmy’s culinary talents, with each dish bringing something new and interesting to the table and the Big Green Egg cooker offering you the chance to put your own, customised stamp on things.
The BBQ Club can accommodate most dietary requirements if informed in advance. My guest doesn’t eat meat and she found lots of mouth-watering options on the veggie menu, with highlights like the perfectly crisp, melt-in-the-mouth halloumi.
The pop-up’s six-course tasting menu costs a set-price of £45, and it’s an ideal fit for special occasion celebrations right in amongst the action of the Southbank. Naturally this place is going to be one of the places to be when the sun comes out, but if your booking is on a day when the forecast looks dodgy have no fear; there’s a fully retractable roof to keep you warm and dry.
Of course, there’s more to The BBQ than just the six-course tasting menu, and the ground-floor part of the restaurant offers walk-in visitors treats like steak burgers (£9), burrata salads (£8) and halloumi fries (4.50).
And if you just fancy a cheeky drink or two on the water’s edge? The BBQ Club’s bar is opened midday to 11pm, stocked with G&Ts, craft beers and ciders galore.
Make it happen
When: The BBQ Club runs at the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX until Sunday 23rd September.
Bookings: Tickets for the six-course tasting menu are £45 and need to be booked in advance, but the bar downstairs takes walk-ins.