'Food' at The Shed (Image: The Shed via Chris Bethell)

If you plan to be in London at some point in the future and would like to reserve a table at The Shed, fuhgedaboutit! The restaurant, which is top-rated on TripAdvisor, has been turning away customers almost since the say it went public in April.

Its unprecedented popularity is only one reason you won’t be dining at The Shed. Another — more compelling — reason is that the restaurant doesn’t exist.

It is a phantom, conjured out of whole cloth by Oobah Butler, a writer for the magazine VICE, who in a previous life served a stint as a “reviewer” for TripAdvisor. Butler explains in a tell-all article:

Restaurant owners would pay me £10 and I’d write a positive review of their place, despite never eating there. Over time, I became obsessed with monitoring the ratings of these businesses. Their fortunes would genuinely turn, and I was the catalyst.

This convinced me that TripAdvisor was a false reality – that the meals never took place; that the reviews were all written by other people like me. However, they’re not, of course – they’re almost all completely genuine. And there was one other factor that seemed impossible to fake: the restaurants themselves. …

And then, one day, sitting in the shed I live in, I had a revelation: within the current climate of misinformation, and society’s willingness to believe absolute bullshit, maybe a fake restaurant is possible? Maybe it’s exactly the kind of place that could be a hit?

Butler goes on to detail the many steps that needed to be taken to make “The Shed” the most desired dining spot in London, which included (of course) a listing and “reviews” in TripAdvisor. By November, the feat had been accomplished: The Shed was TripAdvisor’s top-rated restaurant.

As for the food, that’s also fake. Butler includes photographs in the article, which reveal — among other things — that the tempting scallop dish pictured above is actually a bleach pellet next to a blob of shaving cream.