In Honour Of London's Most Un-Instagrammable Food

Ruth Hargreaves
By Ruth Hargreaves Last edited 69 months ago
In Honour Of London's Most Un-Instagrammable Food

We all know the scene: you're eating out and the food arrives at your table, piping-hot and smoking with Instagram-like promise. Your hands reach out instinctively, but not for your knife and fork. Oh no. Instead you clasp your mobile phone, ready to spend the next 10 minutes arranging a shot of your brunch-to-be that is at once artistic yet effortless. The world shall know about this poached egg on toast, even if it is cold by the time you finally eat it.

However, the days of receiving your order and, y'know, just bloody well eating it, are not gone. If simple self-control isn't your forte, you can rely on outright mobile phone bans, bad lighting or un-photogenic offerings instead. So put down your phone and enjoy some of London's most un-Instagrammable food.

The Clink

1. The Clink

Part of HMP Brixton, The Clink is staffed entirely by prisoners as part of a rehabilitation programme that works to increase employment opportunities for individuals upon their release from the prison. A visit here means fantastic food (don't just take our word for it, it's consistently rated as one of the top 20 restaurants in the whole of London on TripAdvisor), a truly positive impact and... no phones. Yep, as the restaurant is located within the walls of the Category C prison, all mobile devices must be left at the door. Plastic cutlery and a lack of booze are the only other regulations, otherwise The Clink stands up as strong as any fine dining experience.

The Clink, HMP Brixton, Jebb Ave, SW2 5XF

Guests dine in the dark at Dans le Noir

2. Dans Le Noir

If your french is a little rusty, let us fill you in. 'Dans Le Noir' literally translates as 'in the dark', which should give you a pretty good clue as to why your camera phones are no good here. This experimental dining experience encourages adventurous diners to get stuck into their food in a room that is plunged completely into darkness. Not just dim, but can't-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face pitch black.

The idea is to bring focus to the taste and texture of the food (which is chosen from set menus before entering the dining room), heightening other senses as you are stripped of your sight. Almost all the waiting staff are visually impaired and it's a marvellous introduction to vision-free dining.

Dans Le Noir, 30-31 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0DU

The Ritz wins at glam, but don't get your phone out

3. The Ritz

The temptation to snap a few pics during your afternoon tea at The Ritz is great. After all, the Grade II-listed, five star hotel is renowned around the world for being one of London's finest. However, such finery can come with a price — in this case its their apparent displeasure at you papping your own treats.

On a recent visit, we were gently but firmly told to stop conducting a photo-shoot with our delectable scones, cream and jam. Apparently 'tis not the done thing, darling. While the Instagram unfortunately had to wait, it turns out their exquisite cakes and bakes taste just as good un-photographed, so don't let it put you off a visit.

The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, St. James's, W1J 9BR

Proud Cabaret

4. Proud Cabaret

One sure fire way to forget about getting that 'gram is to wave something even more enticing in front of your face instead. In the case of Proud Cabaret, that 'something' is an evening of classy, erotic, lavish entertainment, scintillating enough to keep that mobile long forgotten in your pocket. The cabaret action takes place before your very tables as you dine, with a heady mix of circus acts, burlesque, comedy and music.

The decor is pure 1920s Parisian glamour and while the food is good, you'll be hard-pushed to keep your eyes on anything but the oh-so-wiggly performers. This is pure fun and frolics, trumping phones and filters every time.

Proud Cabaret, 1 Mark Ln, EC3R 7AH

HotBox London's ribs

5. HotBox

The succulence from this American BBQ joint's pork ribs doesn't just come from their dangerously hot'n'spicy Scotch bonnet glaze, it's also thanks to the tender meat, slow cooked to slide-right-off-the-bone perfection. Glossy meat, slick with glaze and extra BBQ sauce on the side, this is one meal you might want to get a bib for.

Oh, and forget about getting a photograph. The best way to enjoy the St Louis pork ribs is to delve right in with your hands and, trust us, you don't want those lethal Scotch bonnet chillies going anywhere but in your mouth. Keep your hands on the ribs and your eyes on prize. Food this sinfully delicious is probably best kept under wraps anyway.

HotBox, 46-48 Commercial St, E1 6LT

Even the burgers are messy at The Joint in Brixton

6. The Joint

Another mess-maker, The Joint inside Brixton Market is a sauce-everywhere-but-we-don't-care kinda outfit. Specialising in pulled pork, ribs, burgers and brisket, everything here gets slathered in a generous helping of marinade, sauce or oozy cheese, meaning your hands and mouth (sometimes your entire face too) are well and truly occupied each sitting.

The wings in particular arrive in a deep dish swimming with BBQ or hot sauce. The clear up can sometimes take as long as the devouring, but that's all part of the fun. Put down your phone and get stuck in, it's finger licking good.

The Joint, 87 Brixton Village Market, Atlantic Rd, SW9 8PS

Our attempt at photographing the hot double at Roti Joupa. Photo: Helen Graves.

7. Roti Joupa

The Trinidadian hot double at Clapham's Roti Joupa is a triumph of Caribbean home cooking, attracting locals for miles around who have successfully (and a little smugly) uncovered its deliciousness hiding away on the sides menu. Londonist writer Helen Graves describes it as "a thing of thick, murky beauty, cut through by a seriously hot (but optional) chilli sauce".

However, try as you might, you will never snap a photo that does this roti-wrapped chickpea curry justice. The light rotis perfectly encapsulate the well-spiced curry within, meaning it's not much to look at but bursting with flavour once you get stuck in. Of course you could disassemble the entire thing first to take a below-average photo first but, really, is that the sort of person you want to be?

Roti Joupa, 12 Clapham High St, SW4 7UT

Eel Pie House. Photo: Matt Brown

8. Eel Pie House

This pie and mash stalwart in Leytonstone is doing authentic East End cooking right. We're talking plastic chairs, vending machines, rounded buttery globes of hearty mash and a pie bursting with meats, all absolutely covered in bright green liquor.

For the uninitiated, a plate covered in green liquid may come as a slight surprise but abate your skepticism, for liquor goes back hundreds of years to the original eel street sellers of London. This parsley sauce used to be cooked with eel water and although that tradition is no longer widely practiced, a pie'n'mash swimming in this sauce is a sign that you're in a place that likes to do things 'proper', even if it comes at the cost of a good photo. So put the dog and bone down, pull up a lion's lair and enjoy that Isle of Skye, Instagram-free.

Eel Pie House, 481A High Road Leytonstone, E11 4JU

Photo: Fabio Lugaro

9. Everyman Cinema

Luxury cinemas have seen a boom in recent years, with Londoners often opting for sinking armchairs and cocktails to accompany their films, rather than popcorn and a jumbo Twix. At Everyman cinemas, film-goers get their food delivered right to their cinema seat. And it's no measly fare either – there are burgers, nachos, pizzas, guacamole and, at some outlets, tapas dishes for sharing (or not, as the case may be).

Place your order before taking your seat and you'll receive your munch just before the film starts which, handily, coincides with a reminder that there is absolutely no mobile phone usage at the cinema. So this is one indulgent treat that will have to go undocumented.

Everyman cinemas have locations across London including Hampstead, King's Cross, Canary Wharf, Barnet, Muswell Hill, Baker Street and Maida Vale.

Oven baked calzones at Sartori

10. Sartori

The beauty of a calzone is in its simplicity, but simple does not a good Instagram make. Essentially an oven-baked, folded pizza, calzone keeps its cards close to its chest with all the delicious innards — melty cheese, sharp yet sweet tomato, plus a whole host of other treats like meats and veggies — tucked away inside the folded dough.

Get your phone out and you're like to be thwarted because from any angle, a calzone looks pretty much like a giant lump of dough. It's only one you break into the inside that all the deliciousness spills out, and by that time you've made a mess. Sartori's veggie calzone is one of the best around and they even do a half calzone, half pizza for those who just cannot resist a sneak peek before they delve in.

Sartori, 15 Great Newport St, WC2H 7JE

Proceed with caution. The chilli cabbage at Silk Road.

11. Silk Road

Will you still care about getting that 'gram when your face feels like it's on fire? Silk Road's famous Home Style Cabbage may sound innocent enough, but don't be fooled. This Xinjiang restaurant in Camberwell serves one of the spiciest dishes around, soft shreds of cabbage arriving swimming in a pool of aggressively red chilli oil, vinegar and... yet more chillies. When they say 'extra hot', they mean it.

It's eating challenge-worthy and the only other thing you should be doing with your hands while battling it is giving them a thorough wiping down, because god forbid that fiery chilli finds its way into any of your nooks and crannies.

Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, SE5 8TR

Inside the Indian YMCA

12. Indian YMCA

Operating for over 60 years, the Indian YMCA offers low-priced, low-frills Indian food from within the hostel's dining room. Londonist's Lydia Manch comments that they are 'not remotely rolling with any times' but that's precisely why we love it. This isn't a place to be seen, impress your followers or schmooze the crowd — the presentation isn't quite up to scratch for that. Instead it's a spot to enjoy extremely reasonably priced and authentically cooked Indian food for as little as £1.70 for an egg curry, £3.40 for a meat curry and a round £1 for a creamy lassi to finish off proceedings.

Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, Fitzrovia, W1T 6AQ

Restaurant Kokeb

13. Restaurant Kokeb

A heartfelt, family-run restaurant just north of King's Cross, the Ethiopian fare at Restaurant Kokeb is best enjoyed with your hands. That's the recommendation from owner, chef, waiter, manager and all-round superstar, Getenesh, who has a supreme knack for making every single punter feel right at home and gently encouraging you to try eating with your "natural forks".

Even the menu comes with advice on how to master this technique. Once you've sampled the dishes on offer here (try the Ye-Misir Key Wot, a hearty red lentil stew with a Berbere spice kick), you'll be in no hurry to clean off your hands.

Restaurant Kokeb, 45 Roman Way, N7 8XF

Last Updated 21 May 2018