What’s the magic achievement, or product, that will take you from just vaguely content to five-star rating, 100% loaded, all achievements unlocked, endgame happy? A huge house, maybe? A chauffeur in a peaked cap willing to drive you to the big M&S? Jake Gyllenhaal agreeing to let you watch him shower? Who can say? My theory is there’s nothing, really, that can truly satisfy us. Most of us will always strive for more. As the old adage says, careful what you wish for. But hang on, what’s that coming over the hill that simply screams ‘satisfaction guaranteed’? What else? It’s the ‘Instagrammable floating breakfast experience’.
Do we need a little context? Okay, if you insist. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab was definitively dragged in the media last week for resolutely staying on holiday amid a huge crisis. While Kabul fell to the Taliban, Dom was apparently in Crete, paddling, bronzing, availing himself of luxurious comforts – and definitely not making any important phone calls other than to book his 3 o’clock hot-stone aerobicise class. According to the good old D**ly M**l, the Raabs home from home during their literal getaway is the five-star Amirandes hotel, which, at around £40,000 for a seven-night stay isn’t exactly the Ibis next to Ringway airport. The hotel offers the usual unnecessarily complicated tasting menus and private sommelier consultations that rich people are obsessed by in an effort to look cultured, but by far their most interesting culinary offering is the ‘Instagrammable floating breakfast experience’, part of the ‘Elite Villa Experience’ package which costs almost £6,200 per night. What’s reassuring is that while money can pretty much buy you anything, it won’t protect you from the full body-cringe of onlookers as you prove beyond all doubt that you are perilously uncool. ‘Instagrammable’, for example – I didn’t realise we were still saying that. As an adjective, it has layers of meaning. It means, generally, something that photographs well or is some kind of spectacle, so we can safely assume it’s not fireworks photographed on a polyphonic ringtone-era Samsung (with flash). Instagrammable also means something with brag potential – depending on your audience, of course. The 36 followers of your auntie and uncle’s joint Instagram (he closed his individual social media accounts after the affair) will be enthralled by a blurry closeup of a poolside margarita and a video of your uncle getting the words wrong to ‘Come on Eileen’ at the hotel karaoke. Your own followers are happy to endure a gridful of holiday selfies so long as there’s a nip slip or a decent meme in your Stories. An Instagrammable breakfast is nothing new; we all took photos of our bacon sandwiches in 2014 and tagged with a quick #omnomnom. The kind of people who follow the holidaymakers at the Amirandes will have slightly higher expectations; this Instagrammable moment must be luxe, aspirational. This is where the ‘floating’ comes in.
Float how, you might wonder. Does it hover into view as your alarm goes off, sausage and egg roll eerily suspended above like Buzz Aldrin on a space walk? No, you can find your ‘Instagrammable floating breakfast experience’ outside your villa, on a large tray slightly reminiscent of a laundry hamper, floating on top of your swimming pool like a dead body. Yes, what better way to start the day than wedging yourself into waterproof lycra, stumbling outside and sleepily sliding into the pool with chlorine vapours hitting the back of your throat as you survey your breakfast. A bit like this:
Well, exactly like this, in fact, as this is the very ‘experience’ as modelled by much cooler than we’ll ever be Belgian influencer called Inge Moerenhout and located by the investigative efforts of a lovely young man on Twitter called Dave, Does it meet your exacting criteria? First, is it Instagrammable? Well, you’re in the pool and it’s sunny. Tick. Okay, it’s 7am and you’ve only had four hours’ sleep after a night in the hotel’s main bar trying to convince the arms dealer from the adjoining villa to stay up and order a tenth round of Cherry Sourz, but you could always skip the selfies or do some face tuning later. What about the food itself? The crockery is influencer-white, everything is served in tiny portions, so aesthetically, we’re all good. But will it withstand the two-finger pinch and zoom? Look, all your followers do this: bookshelves in the background, hot people standing behind you, what kind of neighbourhood you really live in, we zoom in and hold to see more. Let’s see what we’ve got.
First, we have some fruit. Generally quite Instagrammable. Especially kiwis. The rest is somewhat blah. Grapes aren’t very exotic, especially as they slowly caramelise under the Cretan sun, and even your mum buys blueberries nowadays. Next: Eggs Benedict. Swish twenty years ago perhaps. Serve it your northern dad in 2002 and, yes, you might get a passing comment on your ‘fancy London ways’, but eggs Benedict as the apex of Instagram cool in 2021? Is that the best they can do? Also, as quite a few readers pointed out when this piece went out in my newsletter, how do you wear eggs Benedict that’s floating on water? Even the slightest application of pressure from, say, an actual knife and fork would at the very least send your floating wicker tray spinning in a circle and, most likely, toppling over together. Ah yes, the epitome of cool – fishing a poached egg swathed in congealed hollandaise out of the pool you have to swim in for the remaining ten days of your holiday. It does also appear like there’s nary a muffin to be seen under those eggs. Six grand and you don’t even get a toasted muffin? I see we are too cool for carbs. Fine. Maybe there’s something more hip elsewhere on the tray – it is pretty massive, you’d have to send up a drone to get a full look at what was on offer. Be quick, though, before the kids wake up and clog up the pool with their giant inflatable unicorns.
Okay, so there are pastries. Fine, we do have some carbohydrates. Two pains au chocolat, two croissants, which seemed to be stuffed with… who knows? Croissants and pain-chocs look great in photos generally, but these may as well have come from the Tesco Express in the 24-hour petrol station opposite the hotel. Next: bread.
Two kinds. First, two chunks of utterly dry, dense sourdough (?) which have never known the comforting lap of a butter knife, and a similar pair, possibly wholemeal, smothered in jam. Hmmm, runny jam rapidly stiffening in the heat and sticking to your fingers leading you to automatically rinse them in the water, forever tainting them, and the rest of your food, with chlorine. Are they sure about this? As this breakfast is destined for Instagram, these are performative carbs; they stand as much chance of being eaten as the carrots in a Happy Meal. Why? Well, leaving aside the stereotypical influencer toxic diet culture, there’s also the small matter of crumbs. In the pool. Imagine. Instagrammable floating breadcrumbs. Pool water dripping onto the plate, making the bread soggy, flattening your croissants into a flaky splodge. So, no worry, this bread is purely decorative. What a waste. Onward.
Granola bars, is it? Flapjack, perhaps? Man, this shit is revolutionary. You have to doff your cap to whoever is throwing this together with one hand and waving a credit card reader at you with the other. Six THOUSAND pounds a night for the greatest hits of a Novotel breakfast buffet. Let’s see what else makes it extra special, other than its buoyancy. Right, we have some madeleines right there. Okay, so we’re in slightly more cosmopolitan waters – it’s a Novotel next to a motorway in Boulogne. Madeleines, for the uninitiated, are a staple of every French bakery and are… a sponge. Very probably lighter than the kind you would encounter at a BYO cakes coffee morning but perhaps a little intense for an early morning swim ‘n’ munch.
Oh look, there appears to be some cheese too. I’m not averse to embracing European customs at all, and I do like a ham and cheese based petit-déj when I’m in a European hotel, but why is the idea of eating cheese off a floating tray in a swimming pool so disgusting? It is, though, isn’t it? Sliding a knife into it, in soaring temperatures while the morning breeze fades to stillness. Trying not to gag as it crumbles. Gamely spreading it onto the dry bread, sighing as the bread disintegrates beneath it like a slug capitulating to a teaspoonful of Saxa and the tray wobbles like the Shake Shack that Danny and Sandy frot inside at the end of Grease. You won’t give up. You won’t. You lift it to your mouth. Even if you like this sort of cheese, it still smells weird because you’re on holiday, in your bathers, in a chlorinated pool, trying not to get crumbs in the water. The world is spinning round the wrong way. You put it to one side. You can’t eat it. Can’t risk cheese getting into the water. At least you can Instagram it. Shit. Where’s your phone? You left it next to the bed. Out you clamber, trying not to splash any water into the tray or upset the balance and send your breakfast madeleines to a watery grave or your glasses of (pink) grapefruit juice toppling. When you come back, the bluebottles have descended and are puking into your hollandaise, and the (non-edible) flowers are wilting considerably. Maybe you’ll just have a grape instead.
What you wouldn’t give, I imagine, to be standing next to a hotel toaster in Bournemouth, as two slices of wholemeal are ejected, one darker than coal, the other softer and paler than a guest towel. Come back to what you know. Britain. Forever useless, forever completely unInstagrammable.
If you loved this, buy one of my books or support me on Ko-fi for the one-off price of a flat white (decaf!!!) – it doesn’t even have to be floating.
A different version of this piece – more typos, slightly less funny – was sent out in my irregular newsletter The truth about everything* – sign up here to get my… what would you call it? Content? Well, that, before anyone else.