For a brief moment in time, London's top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor was a fake restaurant in a backyard shed. Oobah Butler used to make money writing fake reviews for restaurant owners who wanted to give their business a shot in the arm, which gave him the idea to see if he could create a TripAdvisor page for a fake restaurant. Somehow, Butler's fake food-slinger was not only approved on TripAdvisor — it became one of the most sought-after restaurants in all of London.
Writing for Vice, Butler explains how after buying a burner phone and building a website for his fake restaurant, The Shed At Dulwich, he staged some mouth-watering food photos — except the plates were actually concocted with shaving cream, discs of bleach, hot chocolate tablets, and paint. He then skirted TripAdvisor's fact-checkers by listing only the road as the address and marking the restaurant as appointment-only.
Butler began the ruse in April and his listing was approved by TripAdvisor in May. By the end of August, he wrote, The Shed At Dulwich was ranked the 156th-best restaurant of the more than 18,000 listed in London; by November, Butler's fake restaurant was No. 1, built on the backs of creative photography, fake fully-booked nights, and many avoided reservation requests.
The Shed At Dulwich's ascent to the top prompted TripAdvisor to reach out with an information request, ending the six-month charade. But Butler kept getting inquiries from hungry customers, prompting him to actually open the restaurant for a night. Read the entire bizarre saga of The Shed at Dulwich — and see the beautiful photos of Butler's fake food — at Vice.