Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is capital.
News of the week
Few things illustrate the bizarrely arbitrary nature of the construct humans call “time” than the start of a New Year. Hidden amongst all the resolutions and “New Year, New You” messaging is a truth best illustrated by SNL’s ‘Romano Tours’ sketch: it’s harder than it seems to escape an existential crisis. So as the nation rolls into the second week of 2021 it turns out that the UK is very much still “in the shit,” to use a technical term, and with the announcement of a third national lockdown more restaurants than ever before find themselves exploring alternative business models. As established pivoteers introduce new ranges and the two-Michelin-starred Core by Clare Smyth comes to domestic dinner tables, it seems everything is up for grabs, which makes for an interesting historical moment — though as Robert F Kennedy observed in the middle of the turbulent late-1960s, interesting times are rarely a blessing, and more often a curse.
Social document of the week
In about 18 months some desperate publishing house will doubtless rush a book called Lockdown Lunches into production: “A light-hearted look back at how the country fed itself during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In about 20 years some thankless academic will probably pull together a definitive work of scholarship on the subject, applying machine learning to billions of Instagram posts before concluding something borderline inscrutable about the evolving cultural capital of banana bread.
Things are undeniably different out there on Food Instagram at the moment: Seldom has the term “the feed” felt more literal, or more rapacious, as users greedy for stimulation devour images other users are posting as a form of coronavirus-adjacent self-care.
Celebrity patisserie of the week
One of the undeniable beneficiaries of an Instagram feed denuded of photos taken inside actual restaurants is the Galette des Rois, the Epiphany-adjacent pastry that enjoys a hot minute around this time every year but which has now become an all-conquering social media behemoth. All this, despite the fact that its key ingredient frangipane is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as one of Satan’s most potent emissaries. Impressive.
Clout of the week
A few years ago, it was Instagram that was the focus of agonised thinkpieces about how a social media platform could change the way people ate. Now — after a method for preparing quesadillas went viral on tween / Cool Parent hub TikTok — perhaps this column has run its course. Launching next week: TikTok
Video of the week
Can’t make parmesan without ASMR.
Dish of the week
Taking the pissaladière.
Shot of the week
Paging Bitcoin and Tesla speculators desperate to invest in a new asset class. Go long on sea kale.