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Restaurants Use Instagram to Broadcast Displeasure With Tier 2 Restrictions

The app for sharing beautiful dishes has become a space for quickly reacting to fast-changing measures

A restaurant worker wearing a mask holds a sign that reads, in capitals, Cancel the Curfew, at Parliament Square in Westminster
Instagram is often the fastest, highest reach way to react
Ben Slater

Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is rotundone.

News of the week

For months now, the government’s treatment of the hospitality industry has been reminiscent of the long haul car journey backseat favourite “stop hitting yourself,” wherein an older, more powerful sibling takes hold of a younger, weaker party’s hands and uses them to inflict a relentless barrage of insults upon their person, all the while insisting that they have the power to halt the violence whenever they wish. In politics, as in long haul car journeys, though, sometimes the little guy fights back.

This week, there were multiple different examples of industry participants protesting against the latest wave of restrictions, making their voices heard both in formal demonstrations and in more guerrilla attempts to subvert the Kafkaesque rule of one household indoors / any number of households but only six people outdoors / but business meetings are fine. This much is increasingly clear: Without any meaningful relief, it’s going to be a winter of serious discontent.

Pivots of the week

And through it all, somehow, people are keeping going, trying to find new ways to make things work despite everything that has been thrown at them. Here’s what’s new this time round.

*Checks notes* ... Yes, new opening of the week

Kudos to the team behind the long-gestating Kol — it would have been much easier to abandon the project altogether, given everything that’s going on in the world, and to write the whole thing off as just a nasty dose of supremely bad luck and a l o t of investment down the drain. But Santiago Lastra and his business partners/investors are plainly made of much sterner stuff, and as a result one of the year’s most ambitious and singular restaurants has now opened its doors. The #invites are in: Now the even harder part starts.

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I was - and am - pretty glum about the tier 2 regs and their likely impact on London’s restaurants and bars. Primarily for all you who work in and own them. But I suppose also a little selfishly too - as a key reason I eat out is to spend time with friends. Last night was a timely reminder that all is not lost. You’ve probably seen pictures of this new restaurant already. But I’m happy to join the clutter because @santiagolas’ long-promised project is great. I wondered if a high-end-ish Mexican restaurant opposing Locanda Locatelli (Portman Sq) would be a bit anachronistic right now, but actually it’s pitch perfect: a bit of escapism, an occasion, an example of contemporary hospitality at its best. We had a 7 course taster menu of precise but not fussy, gratifying rather than challenging food. Nibbles and mains are to share, which helps to break down formality that so often comes with the kind of techniques and details apparent in the food, service and setting here. Best bite was this langoustine taco involving tortillas made from Gilchester heritage flour, then sauerkraut, smoked chilli and acidity by way of sea buckthorn & lango head juice... sweet, sour, smoky, floral and utterly delicious. Wine pairings from @mattvarona were ace throughout. I was there on a pre-opening invite so, as ever, make of this positivity what you will. There’s a 5 course taster for £55; 7 for £75. Wine pairing £55. Not cheap but the cooking is skilled and creative, the service superb, the room and whole experience so warm and restorative. In any event the point I want to make goes beyond Kol: it was just so good to be out, to be enjoying a little kitchen theatre and restaurant comfort; a change from the daily rituals and conversations that are becoming, shall we say, *a little* repetitive. Friday’s ‘last night of freedom’ noise made it feel like we can’t go out and eat, or that if we did it’d be like valentines night every night. I think that’s far from the case - rooms can still buzz. Let’s enjoy them. #londonrestaurants #londoneating #tier2 #newrestaurant #newopening #Kol #mexican #hospitality #invite

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Fruitful celebration of the week

Yesterday, 21 October, was Apple Day. It’s a thing, apparently. Here are some unconventional varieties. Thoughts?

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Absolute units of the week

Down in one, right?

Absolute disgrace of the week

Why have these had their prices marked up by 58p?

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Rustic masculinity of the week

In the immortal words of Instagram user @w_abondano, “Who the f*ck wants to eat pasta out of a tree stump?”

Yeast they could do of the week

Going to tell my kids this was the 2019 London sandwich scene.

Dish of the week

Ready Brek could never.

Shot of the week

Rucking beautiful.

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Working on something special

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