An Australian restaurant in Brisbane has been accused of “gross racism” on social media for promoting itself as celebrating the British Empire’s “push into the developing cultures of the world”.
British Colonial Co, located in Hawthorne, opened in late June but attracted criticism over a description on its website, which read: “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 setting”.
As of Monday afternoon, that tagline had been changed to: “A refined and modern dining experience with the adventure of east meets west in a plantation style, club setting”.
The restaurant serves dishes such as hickory smoked quail with tarragon polenta and African-influenced eggplant spinach sauce, and a lamb burger with goats curd, grilled eggplant, hummus, baby spinach and carrot jam.
In a July Facebook post, the restaurant explained some of the inspiration behind its interior design styling.
“‘The sun never sets on the British Empire’ is the oft-repeated quotation used when trying to explain British colonial style,” the post read.
“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.”
“These travellers also brought back exotic pieces from the Caribbean, India, the Far East and Africa as a way to show off how far they’d travelled. They tried to travel relatively light; campaign furniture (light, foldable and portable) also became a part of the look.
“The results can mean a wild mix of light bamboo or cane furniture, heavier pieces, plaids mixed with animal prints, dark floors next to white walls and paisleys mixed with chintzes.”
The British Empire colonised many developing countries including Australia, India, large parts of Africa and Asia, often pushing out and killing local indigenous communities.
This controversy comes after Queensland Vietnamese restaurant Uncle Ho, named after communist North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, closed in July after receiving protests and death threats.
British Colonial Co said in a statement: “We are very proud of our brand, dining experience and the loyal clientele we have established since opening in July this year.”
“British Colonial Co was founded on the principles of providing Brisbane foodies with relaxed, casual dining. We believe that our décor and menu has great synergy with Brisbane’s climate and the expansive palette of our clientele, who are looking for a melting pot of food and beverages to enjoy in a relaxed atmosphere.”
“We are therefore upset and saddened by today’s media reports that our brand is causing offence and distress to some members of the community. This certainly was not our intention. As a small local business, we strive to be the best we can, and we are committed to improving our service wherever possible.”