Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is red, white, and Bleu.
News of the week
In a world of politically charged Facebook and Twitter feeds, Instagram has long felt like a place of refuge for many — where interactions are generally more positive and less charged; less a place of controversy and division. Perhaps it was an unwillingness to kill the mood that stopped the high-profile followers of a now-infamous (now private) account from calling out what in review are unambiguously racist posts; perhaps, as a frank series of tweets from one former follower suggests, one of privilege’s many manifestations is a readiness to confer the benefit of the doubt where no doubt should rightfully exist. Either way, it took no little courage for @midnightbakerliz to raise her objections (available, at time of writing, as an archived Insta Story) and for those following her to amplify them. And while there is some comfort to be had in the fact that this behaviour has ultimately been dealt with appropriately — and been supported — subsequent revelations about below-the-line and private inbox harassment only reinforced that, for all its surface prettiness, Instagram has just as much scope for disproportionately distributed ugliness as any other social media platform.
Palate-cleanser of the week
Lest anyone forget, a reminder of what London’s fabulously diverse and endlessly innovative restaurant scene actually looks like.
Visiting chef’s itinerary of the week
The London scene offers such an embarrassment of riches, in fact, that it’s always interesting to see where famous foodie out-of-towners come when they make a flying visit. Do they prioritise breadth, or depth? New openings, or old classics? With that in mind, toques off to cronut progenitor Dominique Ansel, who — as well as the obligatory quality control assessment of his Victoria bakery — took in a couple of small plates at Bao, some tapas at Barrafina, and a blowout at Brat. Solid work.
When we first came to London to open @dominiqueansellondon, we didn’t know very many people or good places to eat. It looks like those two things come hand in hand. Now no trip comes complete without a meal with @felicityspector and @clerkenwellboyec1 - this time @bratrestaurant where chef @tomos_pp wowed us with chargrilled baby leeks with fresh cheese, the sweetest grilled peas (eaten edamame style), lobster covered in its own roe and juices, and many more things unpictured because we couldn’t wait to eat it.
Instagrammable tennis tournament tie-break of the week
Ansel, of course, is no stranger to social media: many of his most storied successes owe a giant chunk of their fame to quite how dazzling they look. And so it’s no surprise to see him join the throng of #brands seeking to capitalise on the Instagram catnip that is a tennis tournament held during high summer, illuminated with bounteous natural light, and where Pimm’s, strawberries and cream, and Robinsons squash are basically part of the furniture. The real winner this year? Whoever came up with THAT flower-wall profile pic backdrop.
Opportunistic Gallic tie-in of the week
As hinted by this week’s selection of filter, it’s a hell of time to be French. In any other year (OK, apart from 1998), Bastille Day would be the biggest date in the calendar, so it’s nice to see someone celebrating it with the appropriate level of élan.
Probably underattended event of the week
Burning-binchōtan-hot yakitori bar Yardbird Hong Kong’s collaboration with Lyle’s last Wednesday was the sort of event that would normally bring the food nerds out in droves. Could a suspicious shortage of ‘grams from the evening maybe have something to do with England’s first World Cup Semi Final since 1990?
Envy-inducing holiday snap of the week
A bucket of fried fish on a Sicilian beach might be hard to better.
Nice work if you can get it of the week
Noble Rot magnum magnate Dan Keeling’s Instagram account would probably win the ‘envy-inducing holiday snap of the week’ award every week if it wouldn’t make for a very homogenous, boring column (OK, more of one). Every day seemingly brings a new bottle of unicorn-rare Burgundy or aged white Rioja from the Napoleonic era; this week has been especially hard work on mere mortals subsisting on supermarket plonk and the occasional Daily Drop.
Dwelling of the week
As dwellings go, an excellent dwelling.
Dish of the week
Summer-appropriate? Heck no. A source of almost spiritual longing? Check.
Shot / poignant reminder of the week
We still believe