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Pop-up dining

6 dinners with strangers

Eating out is no longer just about menus, restaurants and waiters. Whether you prefer a mystery meal cooked by a famous chef in a top-secret location or an intimate homemade dinner with 25 strangers - Jozi's pop-up culinary scene has lots to offer.
Dîner en Blanc

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What happens: Part flash mob and part posh garden party, the exclusive Dîner en Blanc is an idea that only could have originated in France. Guests at the annual invitation-only event are required to dress completely in white and bring their own tables, chairs, food, drinks and - but of course - white tablecloths, to the event. And that's not all. The dress code is strictly 'elegant' and guests are expected to arrive with only 'high quality' items in their hampers, meaning no chips and definitely no beer! As the organisers put it themselves, the event is all about "decorum and etiquette" recalling "the elegance and glamour of court society”. The first Dîner en Blanc was held in central Paris when 100 old friends met up for a DIY al fresco dinner, dressed head-to-toe in white so that they could identify each other. 25 years later Dîner en Blanc has become an annual worldwide phenomenon involving 15,000 diners enjoying posh picnics in locations such as Covent Garden, the grounds of the Eiffel Tower and New York's Central Park. This year Johannesburg will hold its first ever event for 800 people in a secret location accompanied by live music and dancing.

When and where: Dîner en Blanc will be taking place on 27 September. The location will be revealed on the day.

How to book: The event is notoriously popular and to be in with a chance of an invite you need to register online to join the waiting list. Once you have attended a Dîner en Blanc event you will be invited again every year and can invite two friends - unless that is you accept an invitation and don't attend, in which case you will be forever blacklisted. To join the waiting list head to http://johannesburg.dinerenblanc.info/

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The WKND Social

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What happens: Inspired by boozy day party brunch events in Amsterdam, London and especially New York, the WKND Social is not only about eating - there are bottomless cocktails, DJs and hot after-parties thrown in too. Founded by a collection of sassy young Jozi women with backgrounds in food, photography, fashion, events and PR, these ladies sure know how to cook up a party atmosphere. The WKND Social kicks off at a different place once every month, with the menu depending on the venue and which catering partners they plan to hook up with. The girls like to give their parties themes, such as 'winter whites' or 'monochrome chic', which their fashion forward guests love to follow with stunning results. Although the venues vary from art galleries to roof tops, the essential after-party always follows at Braamfontein's Puma Social Club.

When and where: the next WKND Social will be held in August

How to book: Head to their facebook page for links to the online booking page of the next upcoming event. Tickets to the after-party at the Puma Social Club can be bought on the door. www.facebook.com/TheWKNDSocial

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Food Hall

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What happens: Food Hall is derived from that most elemental of culinary experiences - the dinner party. The brains behind the enterprise, Jono Hall, dreamed up Food Hall after regularly having his friends and their friends over to enjoy a three course dinner around his long dining table. Soon everyone was asking when the next party was, so he turned to the creative minds at Maboneng's P.O.P Art to start collaborating on regular pop-up dinner party events where more people he didn't know could join the fun too. Make no mistake, this is no restaurant. Food Hall's events are limited to 25 guests, and everyone around the table is encouraged to get to know interesting new folks they've never met before, whilst sharing their stories over food and drinks. It's a just-like-home environment where the three course meal depends on what are the best products sourced that day, meaning the dishes are seasonal, fresh and always different.

When and where: Held on the last Thursday of each month at P.O.P Art Theatre and Performing Art Centre, Maboneng.

How to book: To get an invite, add yourself to the Food Hall mailing list by sending an email to popartjhb@gmail.com with Food Hall in the title of the mail.

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Jozambique

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What happens: Jozambique is a pop-up spin-off of Clementine Eccles and Daniel Forsthofer's new catering company Tutto Food Co. Harbouring a life-long love for food the couple began cooking up paella at weekend markets such as Neighbourgoods, purely for their own enjoyment. The enterprise soon became a roaring success and in Spring 2012 they decided it was time to quit the corporate world and follow their passion by forming their own catering business. Thus Tutto was born. The couple has since hit the ground running popping up at cultural events across the city, as well as reaching out to the underprivileged by getting involved in projects catering to kids in Alexandra. Meanwhile, the bright yellow Tutto Food Truck is ready to roll and will be hitting the streets any day now. In July Tutto held their inaugural Jozambique rooftop pop-up lunch. Best described as a lunchtime, lazy afternoon kind of affair, guests hungrily lapped up a Mozambique inspired menu of braaied prawns and oh-so fresh mussels whilst quaffing wine up on Braamfontein's The Beach.

When and where: The plans are to hold the Jozambique pop-up monthly, although the dates and venue for Jozambique 2.0 have not yet been finalised. Keep your eye on their facebook page for the latest. https://www.facebook.com/tuttofoodco

How to book: Tickets can be purchased via their website http://www.tutto.co.za/index.php/fixtures

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Beijing Opera

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What happens: This dim sum phenomenon has blown Cape Town away since its first event in September 2012 and as of March 2013 has had in-the-know Joburg foodies all hot under the collar too. Beijing Opera's dim sum diva is Yang Zhao who first started serving her popular potstickers to the masses at Cape Town's You, Me & Everyone Market. When a permanent cafe venue she had her eye on fell through, she looked to the pop-up concept instead as a way to keep her passion going. Now Beijing Opera has a regular Cape Town venue in addition to the pop-up business which Yang Zhou has taken on the road to Joburg. Like tapas, dim sum is a cuisine which perfectly suites a laidback and intimate dining venue where the food comes out once it's ready and is there for the sharing. Zhou's easy-going lunch and dinner events promise tenderly hand-crafted organic bites of addictive Asian goodness.

Where and when: Beijing Opera plans to come to Joburg every few months for three days at a time. The next event is due to be held at Trade Union Studio at The Lamp Post in Norwood on July, 25, 26, 27.

How to book: Events are open to everyone who has pre-booked - to book for the upcoming Norwood event send an email to tradeunionstudio@gmail.com. Information of how to book for future events can be found on their facebook page www.facebook.com/TheBeijingOpera

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SecretEATS

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What happens: every time a different location, different chef, different people and different vibe. Shrouded in mystery, SecretEATS's pop-up events reach out to adventurous diners looking for a distinctly 'underground' experience which is never the same twice. Launched in Cape Town in March 2013 by New Yorker Gregory Zeleny, SecretEATS held its first Jozi event in Market on Main in June and has an ambition to hold monthly events in the most unique Jozi venues they can find. Whether it's a historical house, museum, theatre or even office space, they will transform it into an extra special dinner venue for one night only. The chefs and menus are never the same and with any luck you might find your favourite blogger or Masterchef winner in the kitchen. Meanwhile the wine is always a major consideration with interesting labels hunted down from top wine farms to be paired up with each course. Fun themes such as murder mystery and 1920s swing are also planned to be part of future events.

When and where: SecretEATS usually take place every month and the venue is revealed once you have the invite.

How to book: It wouldn't be 'secret' if you could just book a ticket here and now would it? If you want to attend you need to request an invite at the following link: http://bit.ly/XU6mjb. The final guestlist will then randomly be selected from everyone who has put in a request and you will be sent a link to formally book your ticket.

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Author Louise Whitworth
Date 21 July 2013

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