Does this look like a Michelin-star restaurant to you? Diners fall for phantom eatery

New Quay Lane in Brixham, Devon, was meant to be the home to a fictional restaurant "Oscar's

It was billed as one of the best places to eat in Britain with "amazing" and "mind blowing" Michelin-starred food on offer.

And its setting sounded especially magical: a floating restaurant built in the hull of an old fishing boat amid reefs and shipwrecks in Brixham, Devon.

But diners were left scratching their heads when they visited the address of 'Oscar's' - as detailed on the website TripAdvisor - because there was absolutely no sign of this new culinary sensation, only an underwhelming backstreet full of dustbins.

The TripAdvisor profile was in fact a prank - started by a disgruntled businessman who was fed up with malicious and unmoderated reviews being posted on the travel website that claims to provide 'unbiased hotel reviews, photos and advice for hotels and vacations'.

Oscar's creator, who uses the name Oscar Parrot, admitted he posted all the reviews - and even provided an email address for bookings.

'Mr Parrot' says he created the bogus listing after a friend's hotel received a barrage of criticism that he suspected was from a rival hotelier.

He said: "There are many businesses that have had grudge reviews listed on TripAdvisor, mostly from a rival. Many of these are so blatant, any person doing a short check would see the obvious.

"The chances were better then average that Oscar's could have sailed on for months."

The fictional venue opened for business on May 1 and was supposedly housed in a restored "phantom class" fishing vessel moored on the quay side.

Its address was listed as New Quay Lane, Brixham, and the page said it even moved location dependent on tide and season - making it even harder to find.

A series of reviews then lavished praise on its food and decor, describing it as "perfect", "unexpected" and "a beautiful restaurant, tastefully fitted out, amazing food and wine".

It was apparently run by a couple called Colette and Alfredo with food and decor based on elBulli - the Spanish restaurant often named as the best in the world.

Customers raved its cooking "bordered on sorcery" and described it as a "simply divine" experience.

The 'Oscar's' profile boasted that staff in diving gear would swim down to catch whatever fish the customer wanted.

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Diners quickly began to smell a rat, however, posting warnings to other visitors not to be fooled by Oscar's.

One wrote: "I would urge anyone coming to Brixham not to take notice of the reviews attributed to this so-called floating restaurant Oscar's.

"The restaurant does not exist. It is a spoof, as are the reviews."

Another disappointed diner added:  "I can confirm that this restaurant doesn't exist."

TripAdvisor recently vowed to purge itself of fake or defamatory postings after hotelier and restaurateurs claimed bogus reviews can harm their trade.

But despite several flummoxed diners leaving posts pointing out that Oscar's didn't actually exist, its page went undetected until it was finally removed last week.

In the three months that it was up Oscar's had managed to climb to 29th place in a ratings list of 64 eateries in Brixham, Devon.

Chris Emmins, co-founder of the online reputation management firm KwikChex, said the Oscar's hoax cast doubt on TripAdvisor's ability to spot fraudulent reviews.

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He said: "The listing featured over-the-top reviews for a fake business, but it went undetected for more than two months.

"It's difficult to see how TripAdvisor's system can detect elaborate fraud, if they can't detect one like this."

A spokesman for TripAdvisor said: "Upon investigation, as this property doesn't meet our listing guidelines, the listing has been removed.

"With over 60 pieces of content coming in every minute, occasionally a review or business that does not meet TripAdvisor's guidelines may slip through the cracks, and in these rare cases, our members can report the material to us, helping maintain the high quality content of our site."