Pop-Up Nairobi: The city’s first ‘serious’ Pop-Up restaurant

written by Jeannette Musembi 6th June 2014


alice and jason

Pop up restaurants are quickly becoming an alternative to traditional dining out. As the name suggests, pop up restaurants, or underground restaurants as they are sometimes known, are literally eateries that pop up from nowhere, often at an unusual venue, or perhaps in the setting of a private home.

The unique experience and intimate feel lent by a pop up restaurant is the reason for their popularity.

Yummy had the privilege of  speaking to Nicole McMahon, founder of  Pop-Up Nairobi, a culinary gypsy that is all about championing the foodie culture in Nairobi. She tells us why the city is ready for the unique experience of pop-up restaurant dining.


Who or what is Pop-Up Nairobi?

Pop-Up Nairobi is what happens when someone with a passion for food is cooped up in an office for too long! We offer an innovative menu, perfect coffee, a welcoming smile and to top it all off you get to feel good because proceeds are donated to a local cause. This time they will be supporting scholarships for kids in Kibera through ROCK Kenya.


Based on experience, why do you think this is a unique concept for Nairobi?

Nairobi is such an innovative city; there are always new businesses, meet-ups, and networking events. However, the food industry mainly sticks to cafes and restaurants. Also, it’s really a charity event as the proceeds go to a local cause each time.

We were originally thinking of a food truck, but there is no licensing allowing for that, and it requires a significant cost outlay. Marley’s Kitchen was an exciting introduction of the concept, but sadly has been off the radar for a year now. We are so happy to hear that Naked Pizza is launching a food truck for private events, so maybe soon you’ll see a Pop-Up Nairobi combi tagging along too!


clinton and sandwich


Why did you decide to set it up? 

Some call me crazy, but I love cooking. After a stressful day at work I relax by cooking up a big meal. My housemate started yelling at me that I was making her put on weight and I needed to start cooking for more people! I also volunteer with a group in Kibera and thought it would be a great fundraiser for school scholarships.

I’ve also spent too many Sundays wishing I could get a delicious brunch in Kilimani.


What makes your pop up so special/unique?

We focus on a total customer experience. From the minute you walk in you are part of the Pop Up family, and we just want to you to enjoy the experience. Whether it’s our wait staff nursing your hangover with a kind word and a bloody mary, or introducing you to a new brunch favourite. And you #Eat4Good with proceeds supporting school scholarships.


How many editions have you done so far, where and how were they received by the public?

So far we have only held one Pop-Up Nairobi, it was on the 23rd May, at Café Rouge. I was totally blown away by the response. I was head chef for the day, so I didn’t have a chance to mingle, but when orders came in saying table 21 I knew something was up. We only had 7 tables! The waitress explained to me 21 was the 3rd group crowded around table 7. This was followed by table number: Car Boot. That’s right, people were ordering and setting up a picnic in the back of their 4×4.

car boot

How would you describe the food at pop-up Nairobi?

It’s classic Melbourne brunch. Fresh, interesting flavour combinations and an emphasis on homemade, including our chutneys and relishes.


What has been your greatest challenge so far?

Time! It takes a lot of planning and preparation, so I need to know I’ll have a lot of time the week before a Pop Up, which is why it’s taken 2 months to do it again.


When is the next edition taking place?

Join us at Pete’s Café in the iHub building on 15th June. Luckily Pete’s has a lot more than 7 tables!

Corn Fritter Stack

Corn Fritter Stack


Why should we come and visit you?

Sourdough toast with avocado and feta mash topped with balsamic mushrooms.

Is your mouth watering and your taste buds tingling? It’s also served with a smile and a friendly chat and the proceeds go to a great cause!


Like their Facebook Page to stay up to date with the upcoming editions

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