Look Mum No Hands! South Bank Pop-up 2016

"Look mum no hands!", written on the side of the south-bank pop-up.It’s that time of year again: summer’s on the way (although as I write this, I’ve had the heating on and it poured with rain all day) and the Look Mum No Hands! pop-up has once again appeared under Hungerford Bridge on London’s South Bank. A fixture since 2013, the Look Mum No Hand’s pop-up joins the (sort of) all-year-round options of the Beany Green container and Bean About Town at the Real Food Market. When I last visited, in 2014, Look Mum No Hands! had already expanded considerably since its first year. Unexpectedly finding myself in London last Saturday, I naturally made a bee-line for Queen’s Walk to see what had changed this time around.

I’m pleased to say that this year, Look Mum No Hands! is bigger than ever before, with an expanded seating area under the cover of the bridge and even more food/drink options. There’s the ubiquitous Red Brick on espresso from Square Mile, plus an impressive range of craft beers and cider on tap, backed up with Pimms, prosecco, gin & tonic, vodka & tonic and wine by the glass. There’s cake and pastries, plus, if you’re really hungry, hot dogs, including a vegetarian version.

October 2016: Look Mum No Hands! has gone for another year and sadly it looks like that might be it for now…

May 2017: I checked under Hungerford Bridge and there’s no sign of Looks Mum No Hands! this year. There is a bar down there in the spot which Looks Mum No Hands! normally occupies, which suggests, sadly, that it won’t be coming back this year…

You can see what I made of it after the gallery.

  • On the southern side of Hungerford Bridge, and what's that I spy below? Look Mum is back!
  • There's the same enclosed seating area that first made an appearance in 2014...
  • ... but now there's a banked terrace of seating too!
  • The seating area is screened off from passing traffic, with the screens used as seating too!
  • Even the serving area's looking far more permanent than the caravan I remember from 2014.
  • If you're approaching down the ramp from the South Bank centre, this is your first view...
  • ... while this is the seating area as seen heading along the South Bank from the London Eye.
  • The use of the screen for extra seating is a clever idea...
  • ... still affording one of the best views in London.
  • There's even more seating between the main area and the counter.
  • This is the view looking back the other way. It's expanded a lot since 2013!
  • As if that wasn't enough, there's even more 'seating' in front of the counter.
  • This comes in the form of two stand-up bars: this one to the right...
  • ... and this one to the left.
  • The whole ensemble, with the seating area off to the right.
  • The menus are helpfully painted on boards above the counter.
  • There's a concise coffee and hot drinks menu...
  • ... and if you're feeling hungry, Look Mum No Hands! is serving hot dogs this year.
  • Although if you're really hungry, Bleeker Street is just next door.
  • If you're not that hungry, then there's a selection of lovely-looking pastries...
  • ... or more traditional coffee-shop treats.
  • There's also alcohol...
  • ... including an impressive range of craft beers and cider.
  • Some of the many beer taps...
  • Even more beer (and cider) taps!
  • The coffee is tucked away in the far (left-hand) corner.
  • There's the usual Red Brick espresso from Square Mile and tea from the Canton Tea Co...
  • ... with the shiny, two-group espresso machine on the counter below.
  • Look Mum only has takeaway cups, so I took Upper Cup along for my usual, a flat white.
  • With apologies to Look Mum No Hands! for the poor quality picture.
  • I popped back a couple of weeks later to try the Tofu Dog... Very tasty it was too!
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Although I’ve termed Look Mum No Hands! a pop-up, that does it something of an injustice. With its large seating area sheltering under the bridge to the right of the counter area, it has a pretty permanent feel to it. What’s more, this year the caravan that served as the counter/food preparation area has been replaced with a large wooden structure (the Look Mum No Hands! website calls it a “shack” but I think that does it a disservice!), giving it an even more permanent feel.

This new addition has also given Look Mum No Hands! a chance to upgrade the already impressive outdoor seating area. This now has four rows of trestle tables (up from three), the seating provided by stools made of old beer crates (they are more comfortable than they sound). What’s more, it’s beautifully screened off from the passing foot traffic on the busy Queen’s Walk, with the screening being pressed into use as additional seating, where you get some glorious views across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a new, multi-coloured four-tier terrace seating area backing onto the “shack” itself, plus a couple of stand-up bars by the counter.

With all these seating options, it’s sensible to treat Look Mum No Hands! like a sit-down café on all but the coldest days. The only downside is the constant rumble of trains crossing the river to and from Charing Cross station, although when I was there, the line was conveniently closed for engineering works, resulting in blissful silence.

Look Mum No Hands! has always (sensibly) put as much emphasis on alcohol as it has on coffee. On the sunny day I was there, more beer was being drunk than coffee, although the staff tell me that sales are roughly 50/50. As usual, Look Mum No Hands! serves Square Mile’s Red Brick from a cut-down menu, although this year, a latte/cappuccino option has joined the espresso, long blacks and flat whites on offer. The one downside is that coffee’s only served in takeaway cups, so I took my Upper Cup along for my traditional flat white.

If you’re hungry, there’s an impressive range of cakes and pastries, plus, this year, hot food in the shape of hot dogs. I popped back a couple of weeks after my first visit to try the vegetarian version, the Tofu Dog, and very tasty it was too. It’s useful to know that the food’s served until 11 o’clock at night…

Don’t forget to check out my write-up of the original pop-up from 2013 and what I made of the 2014 incarnation (I’m not sure why, but I never made it down there in 2015… too busy working, I think, plus swanning off around America).

December 2016: Look Mum No Hands! Pop-up 2016 was a runner-up for the 2016 Best Outdoor Seating Award.

QUEEN’S WALK • UNDER HUNGERFORD BRIDGE • SOUTHBANK CENTRE • LONDON • SE1 8XX
www.lookmumnohands.com +44 (0) 7763 938078
Monday 10:00 – 23:00 Roaster Square Mile (espresso only)
Tuesday 10:00 – 23:00 Seating Bar (Standing), Benches and Tables
Wednesday 10:00 – 23:00 Food Cake, Hot Dogs
Thursday 10:00 – 23:00 Service Counter
Friday 10:00 – 23:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 10:00 – 23:00 Wifi N/A
Sunday 10:00 – 23:00 Power N/A
Chain Local Visits Original: 12th June 2013
Updates: 8th June 2014, 28th May 2016

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