Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is blissful.
News of the week
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeeeeeeene… is now open. The early signs are very encouraging.
Feed-clogging culinary event (and caveat) of the week
London hasn’t seen anything like it since the shrimp crumpet at Cornerstone. The PR push behind Kerridge’s Bar and Grill goes on unabated, with the (admittedly gorgeous) glazed omelette lobster thermidor the must-have accessory for any would-be Insta icon’s feed. The fine print: it’s twenty-nine quid fifty, mate. No one in their right mind is going to assume prime-grade crustacean comes cheap, but the danger of Insta-ubiquity is that it makes the special feel quotidian, even if it remains inaccessible for a great many people. This is a key reason why Instagram is held up as the worst medium for our mental health, and why the expert advice is to follow a variety of accounts that will give you a properly representative view of what’s going on in the real world. Lobster is a fabulous treat, from time to time, but consuming it every day is no good for anyone — a balanced diet is key.
Existential threat to restaurant criticism of the week
As Giles Coren himself pointed out in a series of breathless Insta Stories (now sadly evanesced into the ether), the lag between a restaurant critic visiting a restaurant and their review coming out is a fortnight, at least. Then there are further barriers to a critic’s recommendation finding an audience: punters may be paywalled out (in Coren’s case, they definitely are); they may simply subscribe to another newspaper — or free online restaurant publication — and get their reviews from there, instead.
And now consider the alternative: an immediate, democratic, image-heavy medium that allows virtually instantaneous (and free!) communication between critic and diner. Not to confuse correlation with causation, but soon after Coren’s series of video mini-raves about Kings Cross Sichuan restaurant Kaki went live, a whole bunch of people seemed to find their way there. Not long ago this column was pondering why so many restaurant critics have such terrible Instagram pages. Now, though, the question is different: could those same Instagram pages put critics out of a job?
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New Sichuan restaurant 杮 on Caledonian Road by the canal, unusually Japanified as Kaki. V promising - the standard stuff was fine but the standout was the 生蚝泡椒豆腐 cold tofu with pickled chillis and fresh oysters - the heat and savouriness from the sauce somehow made the oysters even more briney and intense. Chef is from Dalian in Liaoning and there’s a lot of interesting seafood dishes on the menu which will probably be worth exploring.
Life hack of the week
Better than 99 percent of all food actually cooked for dinner parties, surely.
Collab of the week
Anticipation for Merlin Labron-Johnson’s new project, The Conduit, got an extra fillip this week with, oh, only one of the “best chefs in the world” popping in for a one-off cook-off. Osteria Francescana’s Massimo Bottura’s appearance brought expectation to fever pitch: surely it can’t be long now before it drops.
Reason Brexit is going to be a nightmare, number 354,435 of the week
Just like that, the barest possibility of a tartufo bagel will vanish.
They got game of the week
There was only ever going to be one winner.
Dish of the week
To paraphrase McSweeney’s — it’s poached pear season, motherf---ers!
Shot of the week
The first draft of This Is Just To Say sure was different.