Brisbane: An Australian restaurant promising to recapture the “stylish days” of the British empire’s “developing cultures of the world” has been criticised amid claims it is romanticising colonial rule.
British Colonial Co, a bar and restaurant in Brisbane, marketed itself as “inspired by the stylish days of the empirical push into the developing cultures of the world, with the promise of adventure and modern refinement in a safari style setting”. A screenshot of its website has surfaced on social media several weeks after the venue opened in July, and has been widely criticised for its apparently rose-tinted view of Britain’s rule.
Ruby Hamad, a Fairfax Media columnist, shared the blurb on Facebook with the comment: “When will white people stop? Imperialism is not romantic you ghouls. Gah!”
Another Facebook user, Reuben Acciano, posted an amended blurb where “stylish” was replaced with “genocidal” and the “safari-style setting” became “cringingly anachronistic”.
Blackfulla Revolution, an Aboriginal news source on Facebook, condemned the post on its page, which is followed by close to 130,000 people.
“What on earth were they thinking? Are they trying to attract racist clientele? Trying to be deliberately provocative? “Stylist ‘push’ into the developing cultures? Try ‘genocidal invasion’.
“I’d rather eat out of the bins at the back of Maccas than eat at the British Colonial Co.”
On Monday the restaurant’s website said it offered a “refined and modern dining experience with the adventure of east meets west in a plantation-style club setting”. It is not known when the copy was changed.
In a Facebook post on 13 July , the restaurant called its style “British Colonial Interior Design” and shared content from a 2012 post on the interior design site Houzz : “ ‘The sun never sets on the British Empire’ is the oft-repeated quotation used when trying to explain British colonial style.
In a nutshell, the style is a result of English citizens travelling the world during the empire’s heyday, bringing with them typically heavy wooden furnishings and adapting to hot local climates with lighter local fare.”
A Courier-Mail article before the restaurant opened said its menu drew inspiration “from a host of ... former colonies, from Africa to the West Indies”. Allan Clarke, BuzzFeed Australia’s Indigenous affairs reporter, tweeted a screenshot of an effusive write-up, published without a byline by the Weekend Edition , that remarked on its celebration of “the cultures and cuisines of Britain’s colonial empire”.
Instances of similar romanticism for empire are frequently reported in Britain. Last month a London bar that planned to call itself the Plantation changed its name after an outcry by activists who said the moniker was “grossly insensitive to millions of Africans” who died as a result of the colonial-era slave trade in the Caribbean.
And Kehinde Andrews wrote in an opinion piece for the Guardian on the prevalence of “colonial nostalgia” that it was particularly evident in the vote for Brexit and in jubilation at Olympic triumphs.
The Conservative MP Heather Wheeler brought together the two when she tweeted “Empire goes for gold” with a recount of the medal totals that showed the “British empire” well ahead of the “Rest of world” and the “EU (post-Brexit)”.