The Lowdown: The Shed

By Stefan Chomka contact

- Last updated on GMT

A shed - not the best restaurant in London
A shed - not the best restaurant in London
The virtual restaurant that became ranked number one in the capital.

As in the small wooden building found at the back of a garden?
Yes... and no. As in the one that was recently ranked the best restaurant in London on TripAdvisor, despite being, err, a shed.

We don’t understand
It’s the work of freelance writer, ‘prankster’ or ‘hoaxer’ (depending on which tabloid you read) Oobah Butler (can follow him on Twitter at @Oobahs), who decided to create a restaurant, complete with menu and website - for his shed in Dulwich. The website even included ‘food’ shots, such as one artistic looking dish actually made from bleach loo blocks and shaving foam. He then managed to get verification from TripAdvisor, and bumped it up the rankings on the website thanks to lots of fake reviews from him and his friends, including the gushing ‘best shed I’ve ever been to’ and ‘very nice'.

OK. It’s all becoming clear...
It doesn’t sound like it. Let’s explain. The exercise was done to show how the popular restaurant ratings site can easily be manipulated, with a place that doesn’t exist becoming the best ranked in the capital - it was number one of 18,101 restaurants in London, with a five-star ranking and 97 reviews. Butler has form in this - restaurant owners would pay him £10 and he’d write a positive review of their place, he wrote in a Vice article on his new-found career as virtual restaurateur​.

So it didn’t actually serve any food then?
Well, that wasn’t the intention. But as Butler explains, things got a little out of hand with people calling for bookings and companies even sending round product samples. In the end he decided to actually open it up for one night only, serving a total of 20 people, some eating on the roof, others in the garden.

Not shaving foam and bleach, we hope
No. The menu comprised pimped up Iceland ready meals, mac n cheese, minestrone soup and The Shed chocolate sundae, among other dishes.

It doesn’t sound too bad
Given some of the crazy stuff that passes for a meal out these days, it all seems fairly prosaic. In fact, we’re hoping The Shed pops up again sometime soon so we can sample some of Butler’s now legendary hospitality.

So it’s no more?
Yes. Unsurprisingly the entry has been deleted from TripAdvisor’s website, with the site claiming the ‘test’ was not a real world example. “Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us,” it said in a statement. Misguided but effective, it seems.

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