Trip Advisor's Top London Restaurant Was Actually Someone's Shed

By Tom Pritchard on at

If you're looking for something online, it's always worth checking the reviews before you commit. The problem is those reviews can be manipulated by people with a variety of agendas, just like the 'restaurant' Trip Advisor says is the best in London. In reality it's just a shed in someone's back garden.

The 'restaurant' in Dulwich was set up by writer Oobah Butler, who admitted on Vice that he used to make money writing fake Trip Advisor reviews for restaurants. Some time after moving on he wondered whether it would be possible to create a fake restaurant, particularly now in the age of the alternative fact. So he set about tricking Trip Advisor into believing it was a proper restaurant called The Shed at Dulwich.

That process involved a fake website, with photos of food made with culinary treats like bleach, shaving foam, and a delicious paint dressing. Surprisingly the restaurant was verified on Trip Advisor, and once his friends started writing fake five star reviews it quickly climbed up the charts. Before long it was at the very top of the list.

Butler was apparently inundated with calls from people wanting to book a table, PR agencies, wannabe staff members, celebrities, and even the local council who wanted to relocate the restaurant to a site they were developing in Bromley. It's not clear whether these people were savvy to the joke, or if they were completely genuine and couldn't see the listing for what it really was. Eventually, though, he relented and opened up the shed to guests for one night.

10 people were allowed to eat at The Shed in Dulwich, and were served ready meals from Iceland. There was a DJ for ambience, a pick-your-own-chicken option, edible flowers, and desserts in mugs. I assume all this is all standard for Shed-based fine dining.

The listing is now gone, for obvious reasons, but Trip Advisor has said that the situation behind the Shed isn't anything people should worry about.

"Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us," replies a representative via email. "As there is no incentive for anyone in the real world to create a fake restaurant it is not a problem we experience with our regular community – therefore this 'test' is not a real world example."


"Most fraudsters are only interested in trying to manipulate the rankings of real businesses, [so the] distinction between attempted fraud by a real business, as opposed to attempted fraud for a non-existent business, is important".

Crazy right? I suppose it just goes to show that anything is possible on the internet. Nothing is true, and nothing is forbidden. [Vice via Standard]

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