Harden’s highlights of the year

We take a look back at the best (and worst) of 2017 in the restaurant world. From TripAdvisor naming a Vice writer’s Dulwich shed the best restaurant in London to the chef who served food without plates, and plenty of scathing reviews – enjoy our highlights of the year. 2017, we salute you…


When TripAdvisor named a shed in Dulwich the best restaurant in London…

Unsurprisingly perhaps this has made our top slot. But, come on! Did anything more ridiculous really happen in the restaurant world this year? The story of how Vice writer Oobah Butler turned his non-existent restaurant into the top rated place to eat in London on TripAdvisor by creating a website complete with a ‘Menu of Moods’ and food images which were really pictures of shaving cream and even his own foot, is not just hilarious, it’s also a fascinating psychological study.

The Shed’s lack of address, its perceived exclusivity, the fact that no diner could ever get a reservation all added to the mystique and the demand for tables which saw Butler’s phone ringing off the hook. As he says in his Vice article: “People can’t see sense. They’re looking at photos of the sole of my foot, drooling.” If you haven’t read his article on how he tricked TripAdvisor into listing his fake restaurant, and then faked reviews to drive it into the top spot, we suggest you take a moment now to do so…


When MasterChef winner Anton Piotrowski decided to serve food without plates

Plymouth locals were, quite understandably, incredulous when they were told to eat their apple purée and pork starter off the back of their hands. One diner labelled the concept ‘pretentious piffle’ while other thought it was ‘a novel idea’. The fist food starter was served as part of Anton Piotrowski’s nine course tasting menu at Plymouth Brown & Bean in spring 2017. He has since left the venture…


When Giles Coren made Insta Story gold inadvertently dissing Adam Handling

While eating at The Frog E1 Giles Coren filmed himself ragging on a laptop user at the next table without realising it was the restaurant’s chef-patron Adam Handling. Coren unleashed a tirade in seven Insta Stories acts which culminated in classic lines like: “I don’t want to look at these f**kbags bringing their c**ting office to the f**king restaurant. Stay at work, get a fucking Nando’s, you sh**heads.”

And when he realised the man he was slagging off was in fact Adam Handling: “The motherf**ker who was on his laptop while I was trying to eat in Adam Handling’s Frog… was Adam f**king Handling (mimes shooting self).

It’s no longer live on Insta Stories but you can watch the whole saga unfold on YouTube.


When M&S found a way to mitigate the very serious condition dubbed ‘avocado hand’

Marks & Spencer announced in December that they would be selling stoneless avocados. The supermarket says these pears pose less of a risk to home cooks who could slice their hands trying to dissect an ordinary avocado. Earlier this year plastic surgeon Simon Eccles warned that he treats about four patients a week at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for such wounds, with staff dubbing the injury “avocado hand”…


When Alain Roux took on Instagrammers and imposed a ‘no photo’ policy at Bray’s Waterside Inn

“I’m really getting so upset about people taking pictures,” the 76-year-old chef told the Daily Mail, who instructed staff to put a card up on the restaurant’s door saying “no photos, please”. “I mean, what are they doing? Maybe once during the meal you want to take a little photo of something because it’s unusual,” he added.


When nuns ran a Shoreditch pop-up called Nundos. Yep, this really happened…

From 17-19 October 2017 a group of nuns ran a no reservations Shoreditch pop-up restaurant, brilliantly called Nundos – a play on chicken chain Nando’s. Instead of serving grilled chicken, The Daughters of Divine Charity dished up “food for the soul” like chicken soup and homemade apple pies. Eating at Nundos was free as long as you forfeited your phone upon entry and actually engaged with other diners and the nuns.


When Marina O’Loughlin left the Guardian for The Sunday Times and we rounded up her best bad reviews

As she moved onto pastures new, we took a look back at some of her best bad reviews during her Guardian tenure. Because Marina is always joyous when she discovers somewhere she loves, but it’s probably the inventive putdowns we enjoy most – including this gem from her visit to Soho’s new Flavour Bastard earlier this year:

“This isn’t clever anarchy, just silly nonsense. Not so much flavour bastards as thoroughgoing, unremitting, absolute taste tossers.”


When Grace Dent spent Valentine’s Day at Bleecker Burger in Victoria

“Far from being a good choice after a Valentine’s Day film would be a memorable place to split up. It’s like a Five Guys if three of them ran away and the remaining two battled on in a state of depression. That’s acceptable as it’s just a burger joint, except this one charges £32.50 for burgers, fries and drinks for two.”


When Jay Rayner questioned wine prices at Jean Georges at The Connaught

“To be fair the prices here are of a similar magnitude. They are stupid in the way Donald Trump is stupid. It’s a kind of aggressive stupidity. The cheapest bottle of wine is £39. I ask the sommelier if that really was the cheapest they could find. “This is Mayfair,” he says. “You will find nothing cheaper here.” Not only is this not true of Mayfair; nearby Sexy Fish and Scott’s have bottles in the £20s. It’s not even true of the same building. On the other side of the Connaught, Hélène Darroze’s restaurant has a cheaper bottle.

“For this money, you get a symphony of grey and battalions of waiters who don’t talk to each other. One tells us the kitchen is going to send out a caviar freebie. I decline it. Only what we order, please. They send it anyway. Sharply, I send it back. It’s that kind of place: in this dining room you have to be aggressive to avoid being pelted with caviar. Really, people, it’s hell out there.”


When Kathryn Flett in The Telegraph reviewed Spanish superstar chef David Munoz’s ultra-fashionable StreetXO in Mayfair

“It is clear that I am at least 20 years/three dress sizes/a postcode all wrong. Dishes included ‘La Pedroche croquettes, kimchi, sheep milk, toro tuna, XO sauce and ­lapsang souchong tea’ (Guess what? It’s just as horrible as it sounds).

“In fact (if facts are still fashionable), it’s roughly seven (Insta)grams-worth of soullessness; a place in which to be seen eating momentarily titivating food that doesn’t need to exist beyond earning a social media ‘like’ and which rather makes a mockery of Muñoz’s undoubted skills.”

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