Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson | Review

January 20, 2016

Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson

Just before Christmas Russell and I were invited to the pop-up restaurant Popdown at The Vaults with Cussion. Having read rave reviews about the concept, setting and food we were really excited to go. However, before you read on I need to warn you that it's taken me this long to get the review up as we wasn't wowed by our visit...

After the group's success of PopDown at Borough Barista, which was consistently voted one of the finest pop-ups in the city, we had high hopes for Cuisson. We hate being negative, but after seeing an elderly couple opposite us really not enjoy their evening (they had booked for a 70th birthday after reading positive reviews online) we felt we needed to be 100% honest so future guests know what to expect.

Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson

We arrived at the venue underneath Waterloo station and were shown to a bar. We had read the setting of the pop-up was phenomenal, but we wasn't too impressed - the toilettes were portaloos and the room was more shabby than chic (maybe we're spoilt?).

 As we both had Christmas parties the night before we didn't feel like drinking. A few other guests seemed pretty annoyed that no drinks were included in the ticket price, which we thought was a little cheeky. Over an hour later we still hadn't been shown to our sets, despite asking three times and being the only people left at the bar, so we ended up seating ourselves.

Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson

When our first course was finally served an hour and a half after we arrived, it was surprisingly good. Charred Brussels sprouts with chestnut mushrooms, clementine and grains gave a wintery start to our meal, and we were impressed with the use of seasonal produce.

We had sat ourselves next to the serving tables, which is the interactive part of the experience. The idea is that you can watch, and even join in, with the chefs plating your food. In all honesty though, we didn't think this added much to the experience. They were already hours behind schedule on a dark and rainy Wednesday night, and having to lug vats of hot sauces, plates and trays of food from the kitchen downstairs just to serve it in front of us seemed like a waste of time and a lot of washing up...

Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson

The fish course was my favourite of the evening. I assumed the salmon was confit as it was cooked beautifully, and served alongside finger lime, juniper and kholrabi it was light and refreshing - a stark contrast to the winter warming starter. 

When were were offered wine it was priced at £20 a bottle or £6 a glass - having asked what they had on offer, 'red and white' was all the waiter could tell us. We decided not to go for it after hearing the couple opposite us complain that it was very acidic. 

Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson

The brisket was a little 'style over substance'. The meat itself was tender and cooked to perfection, however the beef tea lacked serious flavour, and the fermented vegetables were overpowering and really had no place on the dish. In my opinion, pickles should only be used when acidity is needed to cut through fatty or rich flavours - neither of these were present on this dish.

Popdown at The Vaults with Cuisson

The meal finished with a smashing dessert which Russell described as 'the best of his life' - very high praise indeed for someone that is so picky. It compromised of a dark chocolate slice topped with sea salt, olive oil cake, pears and cep soil, which was very different in a good way.

The elderly couple opposite us asked if they could have coffee after dessert, and the waitress very condescendingly explained they didn't have the facilities ('it's a pop up man, you don't get stuff like that here' *snigger*). After explaining they were celebrating a birthday, they asked for some kind of after dinner drink - 10 minuets later it didn't look like the waitress had any idea of what to offer them, and they told her to forget about it.

All-in-all it wasn't the worst experience ever as the food was edible and some of it was very enjoyable. But the service we (and the poor couple opposite us) received was just plain awful - the staff aren't trained and the service was SO slow. Avoid, please.

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