An Australian restaurant, which opened in July, has a name and a concept that are hard to swallow.
British Colonial Co. in Brisbane states in its marketing material that it is based on the “stylish days” of the early colonial period.
“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,” the concept read.
The restaurant explained the reasoning behind its interior design in a July Facebook post stating:
“In a nutshell, the style is a result of English citizens traveling the world during the empire’s heyday, bringing with them typically heavy wooden furnishings and adapting to hot local climates with lighter local fare,” the said. “These travelers also brought back exotic pieces from the Caribbean, India, the Far East and Africa as a way to show off how far they’d traveled.”
However, the concept didn’t sit well with many internet users who were well-versed with Australia’s bloody imperialist history.
At the height of its power, the British Empire populated many areas in the world including Australia, the Americas, the Indian subcontinent, Pacific Islands and large sections of Africa, by exiling and killing their indigenous people. The British colony also dealt in strong slave trade and labor for missionary, domestic and agricultural tasks.
Understandably, the restaurant received a backlash for trying to glorify the unsavory history of the country.
“The issue is that they romanticized colonization with no respect to the fact that generation greatly suffered in Australia because of it,” said one user on the restaurant's Facebook page.
British Colonial Co. restaurant - Come and remember the "stylish" days of theft, genocide and slavery. It's good to have land. pic.twitter.com/UgkBgPMQBu— Sophie Verass (@sophieverass) September 20, 2016
There is a restaurant in Brisbane, Australia called "British Colonial Co," which aims to recapture the "stylish days" of the British Empire??— Mi?i (@miniestmini) September 19, 2016
my favourite part of that british colonial co dining place? the lifesize statue of george orwell beating an indian child with a rattan cane— civil tweeter (@dannolan) September 19, 2016
after the success of Uncle Ho and British Colonial Co. in Brisbane, pleased to announce i'm opening a Mussolini-inspired pizza joint next yr— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) September 19, 2016
The restaurant issued an apology following the backlash.
“British Colonial Co. was founded on the principles of providing Brisbane foodies with relaxed, casual dining,” the restaurant said in a statement. “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 offense and distress to some members of the community. This certainly was not our intention.”
The restaurant’s tagline has also been changed to: “A refined and modern dining experience with the adventure of east meets west in a plantation style, club setting.”
The controversy comes just a few months after Uncle Ho, a Vietnamese restaurant in Queensland, draw criticism from the Vietnamese communities for being named after communist leader Ho Chi Minh. The restaurant closed down in July after the owner(s) received death threats.