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August 3rd, 2022 | by Tom Harrow-Smith

Jimmy Garcia: the King of South Bank Pop-Ups

Starting out by creating a pop-up restaurant from his own living room in 2011, Jimmy Garcia has gone on to launch the hugely popular Jimmy's brand, with two running every year in South Bank since 2015; Jimmy's BBQ Club in the summer and Jimmy's Lodge in winter. Over the course of his successful career, Jimmy, in his own words, has run hundreds of Supper Clubs and opened over 40 temporary restaurants. We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to talk to the 'Pop-Up King' himself to chat about how he started, his iconic South Bank restaurants and the rise of the street food and pop-up scene in London.

How did you first get into cooking and food? Is it something you’ve always been passionate about and enjoyed or something that started later in life?

I have always enjoyed cooking, my father is Spanish and we always cooked together at home. Throughout school and university my part time jobs were always in restaurants or hospitality. I worked as a starter and dessert chef, and also I did ski season cooking in a chalet. I dipped my toe into it but didn't really consider it as a career. It was only when I started working on yachts during the summer at University travelling round the Mediterranean, and that’s when I really go into it.

For those who don’t know, how would you describe your food?

For our Pop Up’s we like to give people what they want. So in Summer we offer BBQ food, such as burgers, hot dogs, chicken caesar salads - our casual BBQ food, for people to enjoy over a drink or during their break from work etc. Then we have our BBQ Club, which is a bit more experimental, a concept I’m really proud of. We created this concept 9 years ago and it landed on the South Bank, its homecoming. It is the ride side of interaction, guests come to enjoy, it's suitably different and the food is beyond a gimmick. For Winter, we also give people what they want, we give them melted cheese, raclettes, fondue, steak stones, all the foods you want on a cold winter's night. Both are sharing concepts, centred around bringing friends together to enjoy food and drink and their night.

What’s your own personal favourite item on your menu?

‘The Onion and the Potato’ (pictured below) I love potatoes. But this dish particularly because it is entirely zero waste, ‘root to tip’, and it gives me nostalgia for Cheese and Onion crisps. We take the potatoes, scoop out the potato to make the potato and cheddar puree, then deep fry the skins making crispy skins, we then braise the shallots in beer, pickle some small pink onions giving lots of different textures of potatoes and onions with some nice rich cheese in there too to bring it altogether. Delicious!


Your culinary career has been all about pop-ups. What do you love about them so much?

It actually started by accident when I turned my front room into a restaurant in 2011, this was a time when pop up restaurants were relatively unknown and still a very exciting new concept. By rejecting the formal restaurant model, it allows us more freedom to experiment with the food, décor, drinks and the entire ambience. It changes the customer experience and most of all, it’s a lot of fun. They are a great starting point for people to start out, try out new concepts without committing long term.

How important would you say pop ups and street food are to the London (and wider) foodie scene?

Crucial really, they employ thousands of people across the capital, it allows people to try lots of different concepts and cuisines that they might not normally try at great prices. I like to call it ‘soul cooking’.


There seems to be an abundance of great street food stalls, markets and pop ups not only in London but the rest of the UK right now. But Jimmy’s has managed to stay increasingly popular from almost the start of the scene’s explosion last decade. What do you owe that to and how do you stay ahead of the curve?

We tweak our concepts each year trying to constantly evolve and improve. This allows us to be creative, spot trends, and give people what they want year on year. Whether that is year one with plastic igloos, moving to glass igloos, to then having our igloos designed by Liberty. Or revisiting our menus which we develop year on year, using fresh, seasonal ingredients and the latest BBQ techniques for example. Also we look at the design and build of the restaurant, learning as we go, as we became more popular it enabled us to have access to more sites, giving us more exposure, and allowing us to be more experimental.


You keep coming back to South Bank (which is always a pleasure) why do you keep coming back and what are your favourite things about the area?

I love the South Bank, there’s just nowhere like it. There’s always so much happening, lots of different people from all walks of life looking to enjoy London, its views and all it has to offer. It brings together lots of different vendors, street artists, tourists and locals, the atmosphere and energy is unrivalled.

What’s your favourite time of year to be on South Bank? The summer with The BBQ Club or winter with Jimmy’s Lodge? (You don’t have to pick a favourite if you don’t want to...)

I love them both for different reasons. Not many places in London, will you see people wrapped up outside, drinking mulled wine on the Thames, and likewise in Summer, a hot sunny day with the smell of the BBQ’s going. Both are very different and bring their own special vibe to the South Bank, if I had to choose it would be Summer, purely because we are there for longer, it gives us longer to settle in rather than a shorter six weeks in the Winter.


Jimmy's BBQ Club is open throughout the summer until 18th September. To book a table, visit