Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is showing signs of improvement.
News / Feed Clogging Event of the week
It was the internet, people say, that finally killed the monoculture.
But Instagram is often an ironic exception to this rule: there are weeks when a confluence of factors (fashion, a big PR push, actual interest from parties involved) can make it feel like the whole world is visiting the same place. It’s still kind of unclear whether this leads to long-term success for the venue involved — who remembers Duddell’s? — but there’s no denying that Instagram is one of very few channels where this sort of dominance can even exist in 2018, and there is still something awe-inspiring about a campaign that delivers total, monolithic ubiquity.
This week, it’s the turn of Brigadiers, the massive “Indian barbecue, beer, whisky, and live sport venue” that represents the latest outpost in the JKS Restaurants empire. The soft launch has been underway for a while now, and everyone who’s everyone — chefs; restaurant critics; influencers; influencer-journo, Richard Vines — has seemingly taken advantage. With the official launch party just last night, don’t expect feeds to get much respite any time soon.
Ethical Grey Zone of the week
As pointed out in a thoughtful Twitter response to last week’s column, Instagram is a drop of water falling off the tip of an iceberg into a giant ocean in the grand scheme of food media’s ethics problem. Insta Stories has – at exhaustive and / or exhausting length – harped on about disclosing #invites to restaurant openings, but focusing on just this aspect overlooks a whole host of equally suspect behaviours.
What, for example, to make of established names using their established names to promote businesses in which they have an active financial interest? This month’s Pasta Evangelist flavour: fishy.
Counterpoint of the week
Instagram, of course, is not all bad, and even those who engage in occasionally dubious behaviour are more than capable of contributing positively to society, too. Initiatives like Lyle’s #PinkPlates brunch are an example of how it is possible to harness Instagram’s reach and immediacy for good.
Raised £2500 for Breast Cancer Care with today’s #PinkPlates brunch & charity raffle. Thanks @anna.atthetable for cooking the perfect brunch & @iamlaurajackson for raffle hosting and of course the rest of the Lyle’s gang for donating their time @wannabemodchef @jadelinden @nominoenomi @swiftemmma @jontyhylands7 and everyone that kindly donated produce @thebotanistgin @tequilatapatio @neals_yard_dairy @pumpstbakery @lescavesdepyrene @notescoffee @premierfruitsuk
Hollywood Heist Franchise Opportunity of the week
Underappreciated Creative Force of the week
The reviews (and deeper philosophical inquiries) are in: Bright, like P Franco before it, is a hit. A lot has been written about the east London group overseen by Phil Bracey and team; along with Bracey himself, the people most commonly associated with it are chefs: Will Gleave, Tim Spedding, Peppe Belvedere, and the like.
When the full retrospective comes to be written, though, another name should feature more prominently: that of graphic designer / art director Tegan Ella Hendel, responsible for the eye-catching work which adorns the walls of both P Franco and Bright, and which regularly crops up on Instagram to advertise upcoming special events. The word “iconic” is almost certainly overused, but it’s hard to think what else would better describe the instantly-recognisable fonts, formatting and colour palette; it’s hard to imagine, too, what P Franco and Bright would be without it.
This Thursday 6pm— late we welcome Enrico and Piero from @argalart for an extended aperitivo. The guys will be behind the bar pouring their wares while the kitchen will have a more snack based menu on the night. No need to book, all are welcome however if you’d prefer to secure a seat and have a proper sit down dinner you can do that as well.
Men, Meat and Fire of the week
AKA: the grill at St Leonards
Dish of the week
Spicy. Pork belly. Ragu. Poutine. Each, on their own, more than enough reason to compel customers to order a dish. But together? Yikes.
Shot of the week
One final thought to close this week: with a decent camera and a large enough follower base, chefs can drip-feed high-quality new content about their restaurants at whatever pace suits them, to a group of users by definition interested in whatever they have to say. It’s the sort of tight, targeted campaign to a highly engaged audience that PR agencies dream of running, except it bypasses them entirely. The conventional wisdom is that the agencies co-opted Instagram as just another pillar of their strategy; it would be a nasty twist of fate, therefore, if Instagram were to start chipping away at the need for chefs and restaurateurs to employ them in the first place. #P.R.I.P.?