Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is in need of a little adjustment.
News of the week
Who knew it was a Bank Holiday this weekend? Just kidding. Anyone lacking a calendar can simply consult Instagram: whether they ended up at home or in a restaurant, everyone seemed keen to demonstrate how they were spending the bonus day off work. Surely few better ways of spending it better than this, though.
Either you’ve spent all day planting out your courgette seedlings, or you’ve drunk a little more rosé than you intended in the park. Whichever, you’ve got nothing in the fridge and you need something sustaining. Middlewhite Sausages, Chickpeas and Mustard for dinner will see you right. P.S. ask the Italians whether sausages are hot weather food. • • • #rarebreedpigs #middlewhite #chickpeas #sausages #comfortfood #stjohnbreadandwine
Feed-clogging event of the week
It was starting to feel like the mean streets of Instagram had gone clean. Posts enthusing about a new restaurant in the aftermath of a heavily-PR’ed opening felt thin on the ground; the unmistakeable signs of an agency-engineered Insta-get-together — gushing captions, identikit shots, the same hero dishes — were few and far between.
So it’s oddly satisfying to be confronted with a good old-fashioned influencer circle-jerk. To see enough of the same photos from the same meal that a viewer can mentally reassemble the whole table, place settings and all.
Stunning seafood at the brand new @neptunelondon in Russell Square. Such vibrant colours, flavours... and all served in the most glorious salmon pink velvet dining room. Lovely to see @annabarnettcooks @fashionfoiegras @eastlondonmornings @clairemenary @rocketandsquash @sonya_barber & @felicityspector.
From small red prawns in saffron and orange oil to smoked eel chowder with quails eggs and curry butter to an incredible prawn agnolotti in the most delicate broth with lemon and a side of asparagus with egg yolk, bread crumbs, creme fraiche, chives and maple syrup (a genius combination) - @neptunelondon has seafood and heaps more covered! The raw bar is a must!! And if you love interiors you have the check out this coral haven, all so gorgeous!
The smoked eel chowder with quail eggs and curry butter @neptunelondon is a revelation... creamy, smoky, warm with gentle spices... plus prawn agnolotti we were advised to eat in one go like soup dumplings, and red prawns in saffron and orange oil. Magnificent produce, treated with skill and respect. Thank you @brettredman for the fabulous meal! ✨ ✨
Case in point of the week
A brief reminder: this column has never been against the idea of Instagram influencers; it has only ever asked for a little more honesty in terms of whether invitations were extended, meals were comped, and content was paid-for. The utopian / naïve vision being that a more honest world might offer normal punters better information and more trustworthy recommendations. This isn’t hard to do, and it doesn’t have to detract from the endorsement or the prettiness of the pictures...
A treasure chest of a seafood platter @neptunelondon - half cooked ("mi-cuit") langoustines and the rock oysters with aguachile the highlights. Taken and eaten during an #invite #preview #hashtag lunch, so take of this what you will, but: much what followed was pretty great too (partic raw red prawns w saffron oil; red prawn agnoletti in lemon dashi broth; ingenuously spiced tomato and stracciatella salad; eel chowder). Unusually inventive and fun for a restaurant based in a large, grandish, central (rather than East) London hotel. Classic dishes and technique, tweaked.
Other case in point of the week
The alternative looks like this. It might be that absolutely zero cash or any other kind of inducement exchanged hands; this is simply one food nerd enthusing about an exciting upcoming event. It also might be that money and / or freebies were provided and this post is no less of an ad than those sponsored ads (advertised as ads) that pop-up unbidden mid-feed. The point and problem is: it’s impossible to tell.
A first look at tonight's Guest Series dinner @LylesLondon with @FredrikBerselius of the acclaimed @AskaNYC (which was awarded two Michelin stars within 6 months of opening) || The dinner celebrates the release of Fredrik's debut cook book 'Aska' published by @PhaidonFood ~ with stunning dishes inspired by his journey from Skandinavia to Brooklyn || Highlights include *THAT* Scottish langoustine with chamomile & nasturtium plus roasted quail with black- and redcurrants. The seven course tasting menu is available tonight & tomorrow night only. Bookings via @LylesLondon website . . . #TheGuestSeries #LylesLondon #AskaNYC # #FredrikBerselius #Michelin #ThisIsLondon @London
Problematic beverage of the week
For when you can’t be bothered to choose between white wellness bloggers co-opting / rebranding a centuries-old beverage from the Indian subcontinent and white wellness bloggers peddling dangerous myths about the difference between “clean” and “dirty” eating.
Reader mailbag question of the week
It’s over to Eater London contributor / Green Lanes frequenter Jonathan Nunn, who asks: “why is all food instagram influencer stuff like this?” It’s a genuinely good question. A theory: someone, somewhere, early in the Instagram Era discovered that sunny, high-energy captions generate many more likes (and therefore drive more engagement, and more earnings potential) than run-of-the-mill British frankness. Wording accordingly became increasingly EMPHATIC and phenomenally, amazingly positive! Just another sign that these social media platforms we have taken to with such alacrity are rewiring our brains without us realising it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
at @hookcamden where I swear to G.O.D Dre’s in the kitchen cos the FISH AND CHIPS are catchier than an NWA drop. But forget all else and hit the tamarind and lime sauce WHOLE SEABASS served with little Chinese pancakes so you can DIY taco that shet and feel like you earned it. And the SALTED CARAMEL AND PRETZEL PIE needs to calm the eff up before my tastebuds explode. TAG YOUR F&C FRIEND
Dish of the week
Suddenly, elderflower is everywhere. There are few more visually appealing harbingers of real actual summer; the usual cordials, sorbets, or fried blossoms aside, though, it’s pretty hard to find interesting things to cook with them. Enter a new contender.
Rhubarb with elderflower milk Its the hottest day of the year and my recommendation is spend some time in London fields then lunch at the fantastic @bright_restaurant and eat this simply brilliant Rhubarb dessert then either lounge around at the Netil rooftop or get boozy at mare street market, I'll see you there!!
Shot of the week