We all know, because we have been told a thousand times by authoritative publications such as The Age’s “Epicure” and the Gourmet Traveller, that Australian restaurants are the best in the world. Forget Paris, New York, Rome etc. Nowhere overseas offers an excellence of cuisine to compare with Australia’s or such a variety of culinary traditions. That’s not just the standard ones – the tiniest and remotest place on the globe seems to be represented somewhere in Australia by a restaurant where you can, in theory anyway, enjoy its cuisine.

Food is food, not history, and any unsavoury associations the country of origin might have is no reason not to appreciate its cooking. Australians blithely ingest the cuisine of a country that, if it had had its way, would now be ruling them from Tokyo. The millions slaughtered by Mao cause no loss of appetite to the antipodean connoisseur of the various cuisines of China. German food is less popular, but that is not because of the horrors of Nazism but rather to its being seen by the self-obsessed as stodgy and unhealthy. Nachos and paella are consumed with no qualms about their origins in Spain and its brutal empire. Mussolini might not have existed for all Australia’s spaghetti-eaters care. As for Pol Pot – have you heard about the really groovy little Cambodian place down by the harbour?  

Food is not history, except in the case of one country, which a certain loud minority of Left-leaning, Twitter-babbling Australians is incapable of regarding with the sane cosmopolitan detachment they imagine themselves to show towards the rest of the world. That country is Great Britain, fons et origo of Australia’s national institutions and of the forebears of most of its population and still, to the chagrin of the Leftist, seat of its monarchy.  

Great Britain has on its history the indelible stain of not only having had an empire like the Germans and Japanese, but of having had an empire that thanks to two generations of Marxist-derived indoctrination in schools and universities is now known to have been just about the greatest force of evil in the history of the universe. There’s no point in saying other empires have been worse. Australian Leftists can’t argue rationally where the British are concerned. The  detestation of “imperialism” instilled by post-colonialist history courses is compounded by the chippy republican anti-Britishness long present in this country, inherited from Irish immigrants of the nineteenth century.

So when, in the course of widening ever further the horizons of our national culinary outreach, a restaurant opens in Brisbane calling itself the British Colonial Co. and announcing as its inspiration “the stylish days” of the British Empire, there are shrieks of protest from the self-appointed sages of social media. The offence is compounded by the new restaurant’s description of its cuisine as reflecting the  exotic” dishes brought back by “imperial travellers” “from the Caribbean, India, the Far East and Africa.” “Racist”, that portmanteau term of Leftist disapproval, leaps from a thousand keyboards. By choosing a colonial theme, according to one historically illiterate user of the restaurant’s Facebook page, the restaurant has “romanticized colonization with no respect to the fact that generation (sic) greatly suffered in Australia because of it." A wit chimed in, suggesting a visit to the restaurant if you are “in the mood for imperialism and genocide for dinner". Someone called Reuben Acciano, a “social media manager”, boasted, “I fixed British Colonial Co.’s ad for them.” Like a street graffitist, his infantile intervention consisted of daubing words such as “genocidal” and “enslavement” over the restaurant’s home page, and adding the phrase “plundered culinary traditions” – that’s pretty rich in a country like ours with no national cuisine of its own (and have a look at Reuben’s Instagram page).

The British Colonial Co., as is always the way, has caved in to these bigots, replacing its website text with some blather about “the adventure of east meets west” and saying it is “upset and saddened” that its “brand is causing offence and distress to some members of the community.” This is touchingly naïve. These “members of the community” take offence in their sleep. They don’t really care about anyone who has “greatly suffered” under colonialism or any other oppression, past or present. Many are themselves keen restaurant-goers Leftists love exotic food, a) because of their commitment to multiculturalism and b) to show their disdain for the boring British diet of two chops, watery vegetables and rice pudding they allege everyone ate in Australian till migrants with more exciting cuisines turned up to show us how to eat decently. Feeding their well-fed faces on the recipes of the world (not “plundered” when they’re doing the eating) chardonnay sophisticates of tis sort spend hundreds of dollars on a meal and when they leave the restaurant step over people sleeping in the street. You only have to look around you in any large Australian city.

The British Colonial Co. should have the courage of its convictions and carry on as it began. There are still plenty of people in Australia, a majority even, who admire Britain and its traditions. "Nothing wrong with being proud of the Empire. Britain did more to elevate the standard of living in more places around the world than any of the natives ever did," said one brave soul on Facebook, impervious to the risk of vituperation.

The sound and the fury will soon subside as the offence-takers transfer their outrage to something else as easily as they move from cuisine to cuisine. History too has moved on from the empire at the heart of the fuss. Someone once called it the empire on which the sun never sets. Whoever it was could have not foreseen that half a century later it would not be on the empire but on inarticulate Leftist hatred of it that the sun doesn’t set.

28 September 2016

Published in a shortened version on The Spectator "Life" site


  1. Maybe their menu could have a 'food of the British Isles' section and another covering all of the different food introductions from east Asia and south Asia and Africa and the Caribbean, to get across that, without the evils of imperialism, the diets of even the Left would be so much poorer - that what greater compliment to Britain's historical association with the rest of the world can there be than to promote their culinary delights ?
    Loved your article about the newest Aboriginal invention, the 'tanderrum', by the way. Not much of tanderrums in William Buckley's account of 32 years amongst neighbouring people, by the way.
    Joe Lane

    1. Thanks very much. Joe. Excellent point about the Left and imperial food. If you didn't tell them it was a recipe anglicised during the empire they'd eat it without a murmur.