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Welsh restaurateur hit by blackmail scam messages threatening negative reviews

Matt Powell, chef proprietor of Annwn restaurant in Narberth, Pembrokeshire – which has glowing reviews from the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide – has spoken of his worry at receiving a series of messages threatening bad reviews unless he paid the scammer.

Matt often receives messages on WhatsApp offering paid-for reviews and routinely blocks them, but after blocking one message, he received the following demand from someone called Masoom in Pakistan:

“Hello brother, I need the work of just £50 from you. I have posted bad reviews & added disgusting pics at your business bcz you blocked me. If you will block me again then we will post bad reviews & will add 40+ bad pics on a daily basis. To add bad reviews is not difficult for us bcz we have our own team.”

What’s App Message

Matt and his partner Naomi were worried to see a string of negative reviews and strange photographs appearing on Annwn’s Google page. Matt got in touch with Google and the page is now back to 5 stars, with the offending photographs removed – but he wants to warn other restaurateurs of the scam.

“Luckily it would have been fairly obvious to any potential customers that the reviews were made up – they were in broken English and showed no knowledge of the restaurant,” he said. “The pictures were clearly nothing to do with Annwn – but it’s still worrying, and getting in touch with Google to get them to take them down is a difficult and time-consuming process.

“We’d really like to see Google introduce a system whereby restaurants could give a code to genuine diners that enabled them to leave Google reviews. In the meantime, we’ve switched our contact number to a landline so that people can’t send us WhatsApp messages.”

Annwn restaurant hit the headlines last month after making it into The Michelin Guide just 4 months after opening in its new location. Last year it made number 14 on the Good Food Guide’s 20 Most Exciting Restaurants while at its original location in Lawrenny.

Matt, who trained under Raymond Blanc and worked at multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe before returning to Wales, has been praised for his imaginative reworkings of heritage Welsh dishes and ingredients and for his sustainable approach to fine dining, which uses many foraged and home-grown ingredients.