Angered by what he regarded as a fake criticism of his friend's hotel, a British businessman has devised the practical joke of the year. It is described in the July 30 edition of London's Daily Telegraph, and left me howling with laughter.
The restaurant he dreamed up was named "Oscar's", and supposedly occupied a "phantom class" sea vessel that moved with the tides from place to place along the waterfront in Brixham, England. From its decks, supposedly, waiters in scuba-diving outfits would periodically plunge into the waters to collect the freshest of all fish, on request of patrons. Asked by a subsequent reader whether Oscar's was as good as ElBulli, the legendary restaurant (best in the world) in Catalonia, Spain, the author of this fantasy responded that it was not quite as good but still deserved to be mentioned in the same breath.
In the three months that this absurdity was listed in a famous "user-generated" website (you might be able to guess the name), "Oscar's" moved up to number 29 of 64 restaurants listed for Brixham, England, and untold numbers of residents searched in vain for this astonishing shrine to cuisine. They were attracted, in part, by statements (all submitted by the jokester businessman) that the cooking was "divine" and "bordered on sorcery". There is "an unbelievable quality about it", he wrote.
The review for Oscar's stayed up for three months. Eventually, the officials of the website discovered the prank and took it down. But foodies in Brixham, England, continue to search for this treasure and usually end up in an unused alleway full of garbage bins.
In a comment published today in the online version of Forbes Magazine, and dealing with the entire hilarious episode, the author writes: "One of the perennial arguments against [website name omitted] reviews and user-generated content (UGC) is that it can be easily faked. Arthur Frommer specifically called out this problem when he relaunched his guidebook brands earlier this month".
So in between guffaws, I want to repeat my perennial question: If you were traveling to Brixham, England, would you rather rely on a long-established travel writer of renown, the author of several successive editions of guidebooks to England, or on the views of a probable amateur and possible fake?
Imagine reading about a restaurnt whose waiters put on scuba gear and dive into the ocean to choose a succulent fish for your meal? Yet this outlandish fantasy ran for months! I'll choose guidebooks.