The camera eats first

4 Mins read

Vibrant smoothie bowls and pastel coloured lattes plague our social media feeds. Whilst Instagram users compete to capture the most aesthetically pleasing mug of coffee, cafes are competing to create the most photographic interior London’s restaurant market has to offer. But are these instagrammable cafes a one-shot wonder?

Flower interiors inside Elan Belgravia

Flower interiors inside Elan Belgravia [instagram: elan_cafe]

Elan Café was first on my list when I decided to explore the trend of rose pink coffees and Hawaiian style fruit bowls. I had seen Elan plastered across the Instagram accounts of London’s most fashionable bloggers, and now opening their sixth cafe in the capital, I thought it was about time I bought into the craze. Famous for their feature flower wall and baby pink interior, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about.

I have never had to queue outside a café for a coffee in my life, but my friend and I joined the back of an orderly line of girls eagerly waiting to step inside this pink oasis. When we got to the front of the queue the host looked at us excitedly, “A table has just become available near the flower wall,” he exclaimed. It was apparent that we should have probably reacted with slightly more enthusiasm than we did. I did not quite realise that these seats were in such high demand, but with the girls behind us tutting disappointedly, we headed over to our table.

The flower wall was beautiful and the pastel pink interior did make for a pretty picture with my cappuccino perched carefully in place. But as we sipped our coffees and looked through the exotic menu, it did not feel like a vibrant cafe with a buzzing atmosphere. It felt like what it was – a room full of young people glued to their phones.

I have always seen coffee houses and cafés as social hubs, where friends and family catch up over delectable cakes and big mugs of warm cappuccino. But as I sat and deliberated over what to order, I could not help but feel like the social element was somewhat vacant.

Girls were stood over their lattes and avocado toast attempting to get the perfect shot, whilst others were taking multiple pictures of each other against the botanical decor. Was this all for Instagram? Would people get the perfect shot and never come back?

Latte and flower wall

Latte in Elan’s floral café [Eloise Reader]

Despite my doubts on the sustainability of the trend, it is no secret that the brains behind Elan seem to have cracked it. Since opening their first location in August 2017, there has rarely been a lull in customers flooding through the door.

Boasting an impressive 34,000 Instagram followers, Barbie Lam is a successful influencer who uses her social media profiles to share food and lifestyle pictures. Discussing the pressures of maintaining an aesthetically pleasing feed, Barbie tells me, “there is definitely pressure to keep up my feed. I haven’t been posting as often as I used to or as I should just because I have been more focused on enjoying the dining experience with people than making sure I get the perfect shot of the dish.” 

Are our social catch-ups now polluted by a pressure to share where we are going and what we are eating?

Avocado toast and coffee

Avocado toast and coffee inside Farm Girl [instagram: farmgirlcafe]

Jo Travers, The London Nutritionist and author of The Low-Fad Diet, tells Artefact that our obsession with photographing our meals and polychromatic lunch plates might not be all bad news.

“Getting exposure to these beautiful foods can definitely make people more adventurous with their diets.” Beetroot latte’s and Acai smoothie bowls are just some of the exotic offerings on Farm Girl’s menu, next on my list of must try’s. It is unlikely that the herds of young people venturing into these cafes would have been exposed to such unique ingredients in their day to day life.

But Jo is also concerned about the pressure on young people to constantly share what they’re enjoying: “Eating doesn’t have to be on show all the time, food can be stressful for some people: is it healthy? is my portion size right? does it look nice?”

Flicking through the explore page on my Instagram, I come across a new addition to Londons instagrammable cafe market: “Kalifornia Kitchen – coming soon.”

Artefact spoke to the creator behind London’s new cafe hotspot. Kalifornia Kitchen is Soho’s pink paradise. A West coast themed cafe boasting an exotic vegan menu, this oasis has an inviting interior that would make almost anyone reach for their phone. The bright-pink spiral staircase and “don’t kale my vibe” graffitied on the wall are just some of the features this instagrammers haven has to offer.

Loui Blake, the brains behind Kalifornia Kitchen is aware of what is needed to succeed in this saturated market, “I think it comes down to reverse engineering the motivations of people choosing to eat at your restaurant,

Spiral staircase and botanical interior inside Kalifornia Kitchen

Spiral staircase and botanical interior [instagram: kaliforniakitchen]

“Of course taste & flavour is most important, but the food has to be aesthetically pleasing. More and more people choose where to eat from social media. Creating food and locations that photograph well helps to incentivise people to take photos.”

Is taste as important as looks? Loui thinks so, “aesthetics may be what gets people there, but taste & flavour is what will keep people coming back.”

It doesn’t look like the trend is going anywhere soon, with more floral cafe’s littering the streets of London every day.

Will people come back to these idyllic locations time and time again or will they take a snap of their latte and never return? Perhaps they need to focus on the people around the table rather than the picture of the food that is on it.





Featured image by Eloise Reader. 

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