‘Pop-up’ has become one of the most abused terms of the last year. Recent ‘pop-ups’ have included a caff-for-a-week used to promote a brand of baked beans; another was a caff used to promote a make of frying pan. For these self-styled ‘pop-ups’, you and I are merely marketing opportunities.
Quite when a ‘pop-up’ becomes a proper restaurant we’re not sure, but Summerhouse describes itself as a ‘pop-up’ even though it’s a permanent installation which closes over the less clement winter months. This prime canal-side site – formerly Jason’s – has had a big makeover, and its open side (covered on our visit by roll-down French café canopies) make it a choice spot on balmy summer evenings.
The new owners also run another canal-side restaurant nearby, The Waterway, and they’ve opted for a simple seafood menu. Service on our visit was professional, but the kitchen none too quick; we waited nearly an hour for our starters. The best of these was deep-fried calamari, but ‘popcorn shrimp’ was disappointing, resembling that ’70s pub and motorway services favourite, scampi.
Blandness seemed to be a keynote of many ingredients, from those used in a prawn and avocado cocktail ‘with bloody mary sauce’ to a ‘mango salsa’ accompanying a swordfish steak ciabatta. It was the simplest of dishes that were the best exectuted: beer-battered cod and chips with plump chips and mushy peas, and a sirloin steak, which was juicy and not overcooked.
Puddings include retro delights such as knickerbocker glory or crêpes with banana and chocolate, both echoing the seaside theme of the interior. The well-heeled locals were lapping it up.