Every medium has its masterpieces. Instagram Stories launched just over a year ago as a feature that could lure millennials away from platform-of-choice Snapchat; it is perhaps understandable that in such a short period no one has figured out a way to turn what is an inherently off-the-cuff, transient medium into something approaching high art.
Until now, that is. Giles Coren was visiting The Frog E1 last night, perhaps interested to try the food that won chef Adam Handling Food and Travel’s 2017 London Restaurant of the Year and UK Restaurant of the Year awards. Unfortunately his enjoyment was stymied by the presence, on a next door table, of a couple indulging in a most unusual and (to Coren, at least) irritating practice.
The whole ensuing saga, captured in seven successive Insta Stories, is — at time of writing — still live on Coren’s Instagram page, though it will self-erase by around 9pm tonight. If there is still time, it is genuinely essential viewing, but for anyone who missed it — or who wants to relive its extraordinary events one more time — a transcript is below.
[Coren in close-up, whispering conspiratorially to the camera] So I’m at The Frog by Adam Handling, OK, and the guy at the next table is on his fucking laptop. Look [Coren angles the phone to a next-door table, where a man with his back to the camera is, indeed, on his laptop] He’s literally… All the through his meal, they bring the food, he doesn’t listen, he’s —
[Coren, again, in close-up, whispering] An hour later. He’s still at it. There he is, look. [Coren angles his phone to the neighbouring table again; a man still has his back to the camera, still on his laptop] His friend has spent the whole time on her phone because he’s on his laptop the whole time. They eat [here, Coren pantomimes eating with an accompanying sound that chills the viewer to the core], and then they go back to their laptop, tap tap tap tap tap. Why?!
[Coren in close-up, visibly distressed, stage whispering] I mean I’ve been sitting in front of a laptop screen all day. I don’t want to look at these fuckbags bringing their c*****g office to the fucking restaurant. Stay at work, get a fucking Nando’s, you shitheads.
[A wider-angle shot now. Coren no longer whispering] OK, so. The motherfucker who was on his laptop while I was trying to eat in Adam Handling’s Frog… [Coren angles the phone to the next-door table one final time. The man has turned to face the camera] was Adam fucking Handling [Coren mimes shooting self]
[Coren has the phone turned to show both him and his wife, talking openly now] So that was one of the most embarrassing dinners of our lives. I mean there have been a few. I don’t know what to say. I have just embarrassed the piss out of myself. [Adam’s] girlfriend goes to the loo, looks on Instagram — there I am, calling them a pair of wankers.
[Coren, again in wide-angle, this time with a cat ears filter] I’ve made myself look like a cat because I couldn’t find the emoticon for a c***. All I can say is, his restaurant is absolutely terrific — I’d probably say that even if it weren’t, because I’m so embarrassed. But it was terrific, he was lovely, so was his girlfriend, I’m really sorry. [Coren’s wife comes more clearly into shot] Ooh, Esther’s got ears as well.
[Change of location. A black background. Coren in close-up] Well I’m home now, and if we have to draw a lesson from the evening it’s: if you’re a grumpy, shouty, opinionated twat like me — stay home. Because if you go out you’re going to make a fucking tit of yourself, and wish you were dead.
Pretty good, right? And yes, one might draw Coren’s conclusion. There are probably all sorts of other conclusions to draw, too: about the dangers of making public pronouncements on social media (even on a medium as ephemeral as Insta Stories); about the evolving relationships between critics, chefs, and their respective followings in an age where access is freer than ever (and even more so in the case of a chef as, uh, vocal as Adam Handling.)
But all that can come later. For now, just bask in history being made. The medium of Insta Stories has its first solid-gold classic.