A selection of plates, beautifully arranged. Vegetables, meats and assorted bread.

Chefstagram: the new word of mouth

Gone are the days when 'delicious' was enough. Now your food and the dining experience have to be sexy and shareable for the Instagram generation.

Years ago, selecting a restaurant based on how it would look in photography was the reserve of big events, but today’s eateries are giving equal consideration to their interior design and ‘Instagrammability’ as they do conceiving their dishes and curating wine lists. In a world where every customer can be a critic or an advocate, every minute detail of the ‘experience’ must be attended to.

‘Super restaurant’, Hide opened earlier this year and is already a wild commercial and social media success. Situated overlooking Green Park in London’s exclusive Mayfair, it is the perfect amalgamation of “food to die for” – which looks as glorious as it tastes – in a setting of impossibly good lighting and attention to detail that makes every inch of its three floors a photographer’s dream.

The experience is seamless, yet delineated, with three defined spaces – ‘above’, ‘ground’ and ‘below’, where you find delightful themed private dining spaces. An atmospheric basement bar leads into a stunning walk-through wine cellar, filled from floor to ceiling with a curated selection of wines from Hide’s owners – the boutique vintner Hedonism Wines.

The winding corridors of the wine cellar at Hide with bottles of wine displayed from floor to ceiling.
No detail left to chance: The curated wine cellar at Hide (© Hide, photographed by Joakim Blockstrom on a Canon EOS 5DS with a EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens)

Walking through Hide, you could be forgiven for thinking of it as an indulgent concept experience, as not a single inch of the building has not received careful consideration and delicate, personal touches that could easily be overlooked. Yet Rose Murray of the high-end luxury design studio ‘These White Walls’, accurately describes the ground floor space as “handsome, yet homely”.

However, Hide is as far from style over substance as it’s possible to be – as its recently awarded Michelin Star attests. To earn a star within five months of opening is an extraordinary achievement by anyone’s standards. To create a space where the interior is competing with the food for hashtags is next level.

It’s a stark contrast to last year’s controversial decision by culinary living legends, Michel & Albert Roux to ban photography at their three Michelin-starred Waterside Inn in Bray, UK. But social media sharing is a key ingredient to the appeal of Hide. Although imbued with the imagery of nature throughout, scrutiny shows you arrangements that betray the shapes of social media, with neat archways framing tables and lights positioned so as not so overshadow the food. Even perennial Instagram favourite, ‘the bathroom selfie’ requires no filters. The flattering lighting around the mirrors simply cannot be improved.

A small, dimly lit, private dining room with seating in a semi-circular booth ad wood panelled walls.
A private dining space framed by an arch of recipe books. (© Hide, photographed by Joakim Blockstrom on a Canon EOS 5DS with a EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens)
A wide view of the restaurant, showing the winding oak staircase against the floor to ceiling windows that overlook Green Park.
The spiral stairs gradate from dark fumed oak to a paler shade as you ascend. (© Hide, photographed by Joakim Blockstrom on a Canon EOS 5DS with a EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens)

For Tatiana Fokina, the CEO of Hide and former gallerist, aesthetic is absolutely critical to the experience of the diner. “We wanted our guests to fill a little bit like children exploring a new place and bring in a sense of surprise and quest,” she explains. “The space is filled with tactile textures, hidden details that keep revealing themselves every time you come to the restaurant, elements that reference Ollie’s dishes, hidden objects…”

Among these surprises are Tatiana’s own footprints, embedded into the wooden floors, lightboxes that cast shadows of woodland creatures onto the wall and the piece de resistance sweeping staircase, handcrafted in Poland and spans from the basement to ‘Above’.

Coconut ice cream, coconut crisp, with a coconut macaroon, designed to look like a rose and presented on a white plate.
Looks too perfect to eat: coconut ice cream, coconut crisp, with a coconut macaroon (© Hide, photographed by Joakim Blockstrom on a Canon EOS 5DS with a EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens)

Chef Ollie Dabbous worked closely with Tatiana and the designers to create the necessary synergy between his food and its home. However, despite being no stranger to a Michelin star and a celebrity in his own right, he keeps a very low profile on social media. Does this affect his approach to creating dishes for the Instagram generation?

“I try to produce food that looks as good as it tastes,” says Ollie. “This is for everyone’s pleasure, rather than done specifically to entice on social media. The visual appeal comes from clean lines, organic uncluttered plating, and genuine care and emotional investment in what I am doing. If people want to photograph it and share it, then that is their prerogative.”

The genuine care and emotional investment of Ollie and Tatiana is undisputable. And although Ollie’s artistry as a chef is in no way just for the gaze of a lens, visitors to Hide equally photograph the food and the décor. Whether deliberate or accidental, together they have created precisely the experience todays diner is looking for and that, or Ollie Dabbous’ commitment to exceptional food, doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.

Written by Marie-Anne Leonard

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