Re-f-use Pop-Up, Durham

 I’ve mentioned a few times that Mr. Canny and myself like to see restaurants using local, seasonal produce. The idea that we are draining the planet of resources certainly isn’t a new one, and we talk a lot about ethics at home. It’s well documented I rarely cook, but there are arguments about the weekly shop and wasting food because of our jaunts out and about.

I heard about Re-f-use on Twitter, and read an article about their plans to educate the lovely folk of Durham – via a pop-up restaurant – on food waste management. When I told Mr. Canny about it I said we were going to eat ‘bin food’, which was a slight exaggeration!
Looking at some of the photos on their Facebook page, it’s staggering the perfectly good food supermarkets discard. We have families queuing to use food banks, and many local charities crying out for donations for the work they do with the homeless. It really made us think, as a family, about how we behave as consumers.

We turned up at Durham Indoor Market on the 12th June not knowing what to expect. There was no menu announced ahead of time, which was a worry for a picky eater like me, but I went willing to give it all a try. The food would be based on what was provided by their suppliers, and some food would have been prepared ahead of time to cut down on time in the pop-up.

We arrived slightly before the 6:30pm time stated on the Facebook page and it was already packed. The premise was you could have 3 courses from the menu, and pay what you felt it was worth. There was the option to help out too, and there were lots of people involved. The atmosphere was bohemian, and there were lots of Durham students involved.

We managed to get a table just after 7, and we were joined by an older group of people. I’m starting to really like the idea of communal dining, but maybe that’s a sign that me and Mr.Canny are running out of things to talk about!

I ordered for us both at the counter as the space was very limited. I chose Green Soup to start, followed by a Meatball Wrap with chips. Mr.Canny picked the Smoked Salmon Toasts, also followed by the Wrap. Instead of chips for him we wanted to try the Tempura Broccoli, and we said we’d share. I saw plates of it on other tables and it looked good.

Volunteers dished up the food, which arrived quickly. My soup, which had garlic bread ‘croutons’ was very good. It was packed with flavour and tasted fresh. We also were given a Banana Smoothie, served in a teacup. There were cartons of orange juice, bottles of fruity water and cans of cranberry juice to drink, which were all just help yourself.

Mr. Canny enjoyed his starter too, but as a non-fish eater I wasn’t prepared to try it for myself.


The only disappointment for us was not being able to try the Tempura Broccoli, which was all gone by the time our mains came out. I loved the fact these were proper chips like my Gran used to make, and based on my blog last week about our potato friends I am a self-confessed expert! The curries on offer were popular, and our dining table companions had opted to try both. They came served with chips, and they wolfed them down.

  Pudding was Apple and Rhubarb Crumble, which we decided to share. It was lovely, although I found it a bit too tart. It needed some cream or custard for me, but they were only serving what was made available to them by the donations. Mr.Canny ensured it didn’t go to waste.

There was no fixed charge for the meal, and people were given the option to pledge help and support on a Pay As You Feel (PAYF) basis. We made a donation at the tin on our table for the meal we enjoyed, and I also pledged to write this blog about our experience. I feel it is important to highlight the work Mim and Nikki are doing with this pop-up. It’s certainly made us think about our consumption, and also about the ways in which we may be able to help in our local community.

The evening was a huge success, and it was interesting visiting the Market after hours. If the event grows I suspect the ladies may have to find a larger venue to hold it in future! Well done to all the volunteers and artists also involved.

If you are looking at how to reduce your food waste, there are some handy tips on the Love Food Hate Waste website. Meal planning for the week ahead will be very important to me as a way of managing what I need to purchase from the supermarkets in future.

Thanks for reading,

Pip x

Follow the Canny Food family on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Charlotte

    what a fab idea! It’s scary how much supermarkets throw out. I bet this pop up restaurant gave all those people there a great example of how to reuse and make the most of their food. Fab!

    1. Emma Phillips (Post author)

      It certainly made me think as well. I picked up a meal planning diary for free from a North Tyneside Council stall at the Proper Food Fest & I’m going to plan everything before I do our shopping in future!

  2. wendy

    Brilliant idea. Wish there were more of these around – it’s scandalous how much food is thrown away in this country!
    I’ll be sure to visit one if there’s ever a pop up near here.

    1. Emma Phillips (Post author)

      Thanks for the comment, Wendy. We tend to be unconscious consumers, so I’m going to have to do my bit in future.

  3. Katie Jane

    This is right on my front door and I’ve never heard of it? Thanks for sharing Emma I’ll be looking into this. It’s a great idea.

    Katie x

    1. Emma Phillips (Post author)

      It was the first event for them, and what a success! Look out for them on Twitter!

  4. Gillian Lewis

    One of my friends said she had been – and sure enough, she’s there in your photos! 😀

    1. Emma Phillips (Post author)

      Really?? What a small world 🙂

  5. Sue Allison

    I’m secretary of Great Lumley bowling club and, as we are downsizing and no longer do our own catering for presentation events or fundraisers, we’ve happily offered our cutlery, china, mugs etc to Re-f-use via the Durham Freegle group (free and legal). Hope you go from strength to strength.


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