“Coquette restaurants” – Worth the hype?

Jonathan Wang investigates the fast-growing coquette trend and how it has influenced restaurants in Dublin

The coquette aesthetic is a trend that has exploded in popularity since the start of the decade, influenced by the frilly, delicate and feminine styles of 18th century elites. The term is explained by social media influencer Devin Apollon as “girlycore with a mix of sultry Old English elegance”. To those of you (me included) who do not have the faintest idea of what this phrase alludes to, Apollon is referring to coquette as an umbrella term incorporating anything that presents itself as glamorous and graceful. The recent astronomical skyrocketing of this style is attributed to various people and pieces of pop culture with the most notable being singer Lana Del Rey, whose outfits were a heavy inspiration, and the period drama Bridgerton, set during the Regency era of the United Kingdom.

The style’s emphasis on delicacy and daintiness presents a problematic correlation to infantile imagery that draws parallels with Vladmir Nabokov’s infamous novel Lolita”

The influence of Del Rey and Bridgerton, along with countless other icons of popular media today, has pushed the coquette style right into the dazzling glare of the limelight, assisting the trend in amassing over one billion views on TikTok. However, the coquette aesthetic has come under fire for its Caucasian-dominated foundations. The style’s emphasis on delicacy and daintiness presents a problematic correlation to infantile imagery that draws parallels with Vladmir Nabokov’s infamous novel Lolita, and also the “perfect” idea of one’s physical appearance

Of course, fashion is not the only aspect of our culture to have evolved in accordance with the coquette aesthetic, but the restaurant industry has also experienced a shift towards these stylistic values. Coquette inspired eateries with quirky designs have sprung up on every corner of the Dublin city centre, the most eye-catching establishments being Pink of South William Street and The Ivy of Dawson Street, just a couple of minutes from Trinity’s Nassau Street entrance. Pink is perhaps the most aesthetically coquette of the two, boasting a fully pink exterior and its interior, unsurprisingly, is characterised by different shades of the colour it is named after. The use of this sole colour palette correlates directly to coquette’s foundational elements; it presents itself as playful and feminine, to some an eyesore but to others, a haven of “girlycore”. 

Aligning with its vibrant decor, Pink serves a range of eye-catchingly presented plates catering to those seeking a light-hearted meal in a cheerful, bright interior. Each of its dishes are marked by a signature touch of pink from the peppercorns, to the prawn tacos, and the white chocolate mousse heart dessert they serve encased in a deep pink icing and decorated with sprinkles of dried raspberry – a slice of paradise, perfect for those desiring a precious sweet treat.  Although prices are on the higher side, Pink’s remarkable interior and the entire dining experience will certainly be worth it if you are an avid lover of all things pink and coquettish. However, if you are not a fan of the coquette aesthetic or find the excess of colour overbearing, perhaps Pink is not a place you would enjoy. 

“While the food is presented in a distinctive fashion, it lacks fulfilling flavour and does not justify such inflated costs”

On the other hand, The Ivy of Dawson Street is a more high-end, decadent location tapping into the aforementioned “Old English elegance”. The decor of this establishment is lively, technicoloured and majestic, possessing plenty of colourful plants and crates of coquette character. However, the dishes that The Ivy has to offer are not as splendid as their interior seems; the prices of their mains are quite high for items that can be found on the menus of any other restaurant or gastropub in Dublin. While the food is presented in a distinctive fashion, it lacks fulfilling flavour and does not justify such inflated costs. The ethics of this restaurant are not all glitz and glamour too, as it was notably embroiled in a years-long controversy over the management of staff tips. It was reported that the restaurant’s management were withholding a percentage of the card tips of their staff, leading to a case brought against The Ivy by former waitress Julie Marcinak in 2021, and several protests by other members of its waiting staff.

 To me, this suggests that dining in The Ivy is not at all worth the hype. It is clear that the only outstanding attribute of the restaurant is its coquette, eccentric décor and the promise of the “Old English” style of dining, but the roots of this business and how it operates are deeply questionable. The unreasonable pricing of their dishes and the fact that diners have no idea if their gratuities are going in the pockets of the restaurant’s staff makes me think that it would be infinitely more worthwhile to sample the courses of a different restaurant in Dublin that values its employees as much as its customers. There is a stark contrast between the extravagance of The Ivy’s appearance and the restaurant’s dishonest, unappealing inner workings, correlating with how the coquette aesthetic appears beautiful on the surface but grows rotten as its history is brought to light. 

On the whole, new coquette restaurants are most definitely a product of aesthetic evolution as business owners attempt to capitalise on such a fast growing trend – and these places certainly excel in the décor department, showcasing unique stylistic flair. They have conquered a highly niche segment of the notoriously rapid restaurant industry in Ireland, appealing to such a specific interest in style that I believe it would be rather unfair to compare their features to other establishments. As previously mentioned, restaurants like Pink are much more focused on providing their customers with an entertaining dining experience and drawing ecstatic exclamations with the presentation of each pleasingly pink dish than seeking the commendations of critics. Coquette dining in Dublin is, like the trend, a phenomenon waiting to strike the pot of popularity at the right moment and is currently satisfying the aesthetic cravings of those inspired by the flowers and frills of “coquettism”.