English celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal pictured at Melbourne's Crown in 2014. Photograph: David Crosling/AAP Image
The term was once used for temporary shops that could stay only a short while due to things like the lack of a functioning loo out back.
A pop-up version of Heston Blumenthal's the Fat Duck restaurant opened on Tuesday evening, while the real version in Bray, England, is undergoing a makeover. Not since the Embassy Taxi Cafe in West Melbourne received a makeover back in 1998 has such a big culinary occasion hit the city.
In the same way I assumed to never see Topshop grace Australian shores, not in my wildest dreams did I think that anything other than a pricey flight to the UK would lead to an opportunity to eat at this foodie holy grail. Not that shuffling through Crown Casino, avoiding the pokies and cash machines that dot the joint like wild mushrooms, offers quite the same adventure as driving into a small English country town and fine dining in a gorgeous heritage building.
The ballot system used to gain entry takes the very now "we don't take bookings" trend to the next level. At Heston's, unless you won the lucky dip you simply have no chance to go at all. Game over. I understand that a ballot works well for those who plan their lives six months in advance, but surely even the disorganised among us deserves the chance to be turned down by a surly maitred on the end of the phone, who is practically sneering at the fact that one thought it vaguely possible to snare a table for two on a Saturday night only three weeks in advance?
Also, "pop-up": are we done with that term yet? It was once used for temporary shops that would miraculously appear in a disused retail space and could only stay for a short while due to things like the lack of a functioning loo out back. The basic nature of these venues meant tenants could pack up and clear out the minute the landlord whispered "rent increase". At $525 per diner, and a sure-bet long line of clientele feasting on Heston's delights for the entire six months, I have a feeling the Fat Duck doesn't quite qualify as a pop-up. It's a temporary relocation. Paid for by a huge casino conglomerate.
The rules for dining at the Fat Duck are also a little on the absurd side. Diners are not allowed to take any pictures with a flash, it seems. While I adore the idea of forcing people to be in the moment so they can fully appreciate the genuine artistry of Blumenthal's creations, let's remember, a restaurant is not an art gallery. The food quality won't diminish if exposed to a flash, in the way a delicate lithograph from 1770 would be. As for upsetting other diners - I don't remember ever getting upset when someone's Aunty Marge couldn't work out how to turn the flash off her smartphone, while taking a happy snap of the family dinner. Lighten up, people!
Small quibbles aside (because let's face it, irritation is often a symptom of green-eyed envy) for food lovers in Melbourne, this is a genuinely exciting occasion. Blumenthal is a known creative in the kitchen and a whiz at food theatre; adding all the dramatic flutter of a Siegfried and Roy magic show to things like cabbage and snails. And maybe anyone who can transform those two ingredients into something mind-blowing deserves a few diva-ish demands.