Pop-up “foresees” future

WORDS Nadine Botha

The latest in Cape Town’s ongoing flood of pop-up restaurants is the 4C Soup Apartment, running Wednesdays and Fridays until 14 August. Delicious food in a sophisticated environment, but does it have a deeper meaning?

Conceived by environmental designer-in-waiting Vida Schiff with interior design by architect Stephen Hitchcock, 4C returns to the roots of pop-up as a “designed experience”.

On Buiten Street, just off Long Street, the venue is invisible to all but those who know what to look for and is just short of a secret handshake when the bouncer hustles you with “Four-see? Four-see?”  

The lift takes you up to the fourth floor where hostess Vida welcomes you, perched on a stool with the beatific smile of a bird. Vida is 21 years old and off to study environmental design in Toronto in September. Education seems a formality for this self-starter who put together this pop-up from scratch, drawing on the currency of friends as co-conspirators.

The apartment is Vida’s own apartment, a striking minimalist industrial number that would be perfect would it not for the noise from Long Street, Vida confesses. Nonetheless she felt the need to share the space – the ingenuity and understated quality of its design, along with it’s “underground” just-off-Long location.

The first sense to be stimulated at this pop-up restaurant is aural, with an “audio landscape” provided by Stuart Ziegler and Simon Kohler of Kalata. An abstract mix of ambient sound from nature, including birds, wind and ocean, along with musical elements, it is overwhelming at first. It sounds like the rushing in your ears has been turned up to the max. However, as you give in to it, the sound comes to define the dreamy quality of the experience – although perhaps slightly too loud to be conducive to meeting and interacting with strangers.

The interior design is also based on the keyword of “landscape” with triangular vertical gardens arranged like mountain peeks or teepees. Tree stumps of various heights form the tables, like the stumps of a decimated forest. Rectangular cushions provide the seating and can be variously arranged in and around the structures and tree stumps to accomodate different sized groups. 

The menu entails starters, fresh bread by Knead Bakery, three soups – vegan, vegetarian and meat – and warm Honest chocolate for dessert. It is the work of Congolese model and TV-chef-on-the-rise Aryse Feza Bakomito, who presents cooking segments on the Expresso breakfast show on a fortnightly basis. She was assisted by food consultant Daniel Heyns, head chef at Maremoto, and also involved in the Lola’s and El Burro menus. Every night there are different soups, depending on what’s available in the market.

Despite the feast-like nature of the food, there is an element of dystopian disquiet to the experience – perhaps it’s the melancholic undertones in the music or the stylised recreation of nature in the installation. The intentionality of using seasonal food and local suppliers, as well as biodegradable containers, also give the experience a specific subtext.

Is this visionary 21-year-old asking us to 4C – “foresee” – the impact our mass-consumer culture has on the world? An elegant post-apocalyptic soup kitchen. This is what one wonders, ejected back onto the pavement and confronted by the chaotic cacophony of Long Street. Food for thought.

For more information and bookings at the 4C Soup Apartment, soup-apartment.com.