London is no stranger to hidden ‘speakeasy’ cocktail bars that require passwords, or insider info – such as a blank concrete wall actually being the entrance to a darkly glamorous drinking hole. But the concept of a hidden restaurant is still something of a novelty.
Hidden in an inconspicuous backstreet in Barbican, by Smithfield Market, Little Quiet is the latest project from the Disappearing Dining Club. This time they almost have: there’s no sign, name or label, the windows are blacked out, and it has a romantic dim aesthetic inside. There isn’t even any noise coming from it, adding to its invisibility and leaving some confused booked-in diners looking around in vain.
A few years ago in London, there was such a big burst of pop-ups – where teams or chefs temporarily took over kitchens, bars, or venues – that we even witnessed various ‘pop-downs’. In these, those already running a top kitchen took over a much more low key venue, such as a room under a café, with the intention of trying out new ideas, or simply to create a buzz by doing something new.
But according to head chef Fredrik Bolin, the growing popularity of pop-ups drove up rents, even in less obvious locales. Soon, profit margins were razor thin.
‘When we started we could feed 100 people in a Shoreditch warehouse for £1,500 rent – now it’s more like £5,000. It’s completely unviable.’
But this hasn’t put the team – head chef Bolin and founder Stuart Langley – off:
‘We still love the challenge of working in difficult locations or spots. Our first gig was in an ex-takeaway: we had a single table restaurant with eight people round it.’
Little Quiet is a bit bigger than this, but only a bit, with 16 covers taking up the entire ground floor, and a kitchen and storeroom downstairs with the toilets.
On offer is a carefully curated list of wines, beer, and cocktails, and a set menu of two, three, or six courses, depending on how much time you have and how adventurous you are. The most detailed dish descriptions are a mere list of key ingredients, with the very first thing you try described only as ‘something from the kitchen’, pleasantly keeping the hidden vibe going throughout.
Little Quiet, 24–26 Newbury Street, EC1A 7HU, +44 203 793 0202