The Random Restaurant Twitter feed shows that mini chip fryer baskets and terrible food photos are a planet-wide phenomenon
Last modified on Thu 9 Dec 2021 17.48 GMT
It’s a familiar image. There’s a well-stacked burger: domed bun, a couple of patties, the crimson flash of fresh tomato. It’s not unappetising. Next to it, however, is an emblem for all that is naff, irritating and deathly in the restaurant world: a mini chip fryer basket full of chips. Because what could be more fun than a miniaturised version of a piece of kitchen equipment? It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a dreary low-rent British gastropub; one that has decided crass serving items are a substitute for a commitment to good food.
Except this image is not from a clumsy gastro pub. It’s certainly not from Britain. It’s from Fast Food Le Jasmin, a restaurant in Guelma, in north-eastern Algeria. I can show you other examples from Costa Rica and French Polynesia. For the joyous revelation that restaurant stupidity is not restricted to the UK, we must thank a Twitter account called Random Restaurant or @_restaurant_bot, created by one Joe Schoech. As its name suggests, it uses a bot to search Google randomly for information on restaurants all over the world. Around 20 times a day it posts a map link, plus the first four photographs it finds. Certain countries, including China, are excluded because Google isn’t available there. Otherwise, it provides an extraordinary window on how we eat out globally.
Restaurante y Cafetería Chanas; 225mts Este de Maxi Palí Paraíso, Provincia de Cartago, Paraíso, 30201, Costa Rica https://t.co/npxHb3s5rC pic.twitter.com/7YeAWFHBsN
So what can we learn, other than that mini chip fryer baskets are a planet-wide blight? Firstly, pizza is available bloody everywhere. A quick scroll through Random Restaurant would convince anyone it is the global dish. It’s on the menu at Ghibabo Restaurant and Pizzeria in Eritrea, Aroma Pizza and Café, Bhutan, Twins Pizza & Burgers, Suriname and Roliz Pizza, Ghana. Also, these pizzas generally look awful: pallid, thick biscuity bases, pucks of waxy cheese, indeterminate meat. Though, to be fair, none looks quite as terrifying as the stuffed crust monstrosities served at Pizza Hut on Jersey.
Talking of brands, they appear less frequently than you might imagine. While the big players like KFC, McDonalds and Subway make an occasional showing, they are vastly outnumbered by what are clearly family-run cafes. There is something utterly compelling about being able to glimpse these places in far-off countries where real life is played out: the strip-lit dining room of the Ochil Dasturxon Restorani in Yanikurgon, Uzbekistan with its bronzed baked goods, or the functional thatched roof of the terrace at the Gambia’s punningly named Come Inn. These are third spaces, where communities gather. Indeed, the fancier a restaurant happens to be, the more detached from its surroundings it seems to become. At the top end all luxury restaurants end up looking the same, a mess of upholstery and polish, as if they’ve all been following the same Instagram accounts.
Roliz Pizza; Ho – Adidome Rd, Ho, Ghana https://t.co/XpGsmRO4DH pic.twitter.com/KpAtEg8pCB
What else? Madagascan restaurant Eurasia seems to serve really good ramen. I want the roast piglet at Charcuterie Colombia in Togo, west Africa. Bring me a kebab platter from Leonidas Gyros in Budapest. I am less attracted by the food at Sushi Shop in Polack, Belarus where everything comes slathered in Day-Glo mayonnaise, and many of the dishes at Altin Balik in Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan look frankly terrifying. There’s a curl of roasted fish, complete with pointy head, which looks like it might eat you before you eat it.
But the main things that Random Restaurants really teaches us is this: almost all food photographs on the internet are truly terrible, an overlit riot of brown, beige and sludge. And that’s even when they don’t turn up with the eye-rolling calamity that is the ubiquitous mini chip fryer basket.