The Pop-Up Hotel, a boutique tented encampment which, as the name suggests, can appear anywhere at any time, is very much on the zeitgeist.
It launched at Glastonbury Festival last year and this summer will be at River Cottage in East Devon for a month during August and early September. The brain-child of Somerset-based property developer Mark Sorrill, the Pop-Up Hotel is chameleon-like, reflecting the identity of whichever event or location it has pitched up in. The concept is to rip up the boutique hotel rule book and get people back to basics (albeit pretty lavish basics) in unusual locations. At River Cottage the hotel will be all about food and locality with its own restaurant run by Australian chef Simone Isidori (formerly head chef at Zazu's Kitchen in Bristol) and staffed by some of Hugh FW’s in-house team. Country Calling met up with Mark at River Cottage on a rain-lashed day which still could not disguise the incredible beauty of this location. This feels like a genius pairing – you can’t stay at River Cottage except when the Pop-Up Hotel is in residence and who wouldn’t want to hole up here for a few days of phenomenal eating and the reassurance of comfort under the stars. You can tour Hugh’s famous kitchen, have three meals a day cooked by River Cottage chefs, allow your offspring to romp off leash in those spectacular surroundings and, of course, kick back with a sundowner on your in-tent leather sofa. Glamping meets foodie nirvana – like it. Mark says: “The problem with conventional boutiques hotels, lovely as they are, is that they insulate you from your environment. It’s just so many boxes stacked up on top of each other. With Pop-Up we took the hotel idea, threw it up in the air and scattered it across various locations to see if we could combine a more romantic element with the kind of service you expect fom a boutique hotel.’ Mark hates the word glamping but it sums up the Pop-Up experience – yes you’re under canvas but with proper beds, good bedlinen, hot power showers, ensuite loos – the kind of camping where you actually hope it rains so you can retreat to your tent.
Last year the Pop-Up Hotel took over a seven acre plot near Polzeath Beach in North Cornwall and despite the traditional August downpour, kids ran free playing cricket in the rain until 11 o clock at night. Mark says:”I wanted to capture the spirit of camping in a bygone era. Kids could run and play in a way they don’t always get the chance to do and parents had the Pop-Up restaurant.’ Experience is a key word with the Pop-Up Hotel. Mark started out developing holiday resorts in the Cayman Islands which could only be reached on foot so people could rediscover the natural landscape. Many places in the Carribean had ‘gone a bit Florida Keys’ Mark says and he wanted to get people back in touch with the natural flora and fauna of the islands. The Pop-Up Hotel is also eco-aware. Everything in the tents is solar or battery powered and the fleet only stays a month in one place, giving the land the rest of the year to recover. This year the hotel will be joining Chris Evan’s Car Fest in Hampshire (25/6 August) and and getting foodie again at The Big Feastival on 1-2 September where the combined forces of Jamie Oliver and Alex James take over the Blur bassist’s Oxfordshire farm. But the possibilities are endless. Mark likes the idea of Pop-Ups serving shooting parties in the highlands of Scotland, the wilder and more remote, the better. Wilderness holidays which wind up every night with a proper cocktail and chocolates on your pillow? Surely a great idea that was waiting to happen.