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Social media influencers are the latest tools of business marketing. People with a high count of followers are able to drive an influx of customers towards locations, with one simple picture of them posed outside of the building. It wasn’t until I got back onto the Instagram scene this summer, when a particular London hotspot caught my attention. I’d passed the Peggy Porschen cafe numerous times in my nineteen years of living in London, yet somehow had failed to ever actually sit down and order from the menu—it simply hadn't interested me in such a way. Of course I could appreciate the sweet aesthetic of the cafe, and admire the seasonally changing floral displays that probably takes a lot of creative thought to execute- but when it came to the actual dessert menu, I simply didn’t care. (I later found out that not many people do…)
Before my visit to Peggy Porschen, I of course browsed Instagram to prepare myself on what to expect. With a staggering 51.9k pictures under the hashtag Peggy Porschen, and 14k under Peggy Porschen cakes, you’d be amazed to find out that not many of these pictures were even of the desserts. This left me with little idea of what to expect regarding the food, however nothing I could’ve seen or read would’ve prepared me for what I was about to experience.
I’d already prepared myself to expect a queue outside of the cafe, but I hadn’t come prepared to be told that the wait time to sit varied according to which seat you wanted. The seats inside became vacant more frequently of course, but I hadn’t come all the way to the bubblegum-pink cafe to merely sit inside. The seats outside however became vacant every twenty minutes or so. These seats also varied according to which table was the closest to the flower displays, with those closest being more desirable; in a nutshell, there were a lot of queues.
I waited a total of ten minutes before accepting the least desirable table at the end of the cafe by the side door, and within those ten minutes I’d witnessed people disappearing down a side street, or into a car that was parked alongside the pavement, only to return in a slightly more extravagant outfit in which they’d take pictures by the entrance. The main entrance (the one surrounded by the famous floral display), is rarely used by servers in order to stay out of the way of the keen photographers.
Whilst I was surprised by the affordable menu prices, the items on the menu were significantly lacklustre. With the average influencer from London posting between 1-3 Peggy Porschen pictures every 2 months (not facts, just broad Instagram maths), I was expecting something pretty special considering the amount of times that the cafe is visited.
My photography student friend Whitney came along with me to the cafe in order to catch up on each others lives and of course, take photographs. However, a key moment during my short time there was when the server asked if we needed any pictures taken, the very second he set the plate of cake down in front of us. Of course we accepted, whilst joking about how part of the job description must be that photography skills are required, or taught on a special waitering training course. It seemed almost like routine for the staff to consider that each customer may be there for social media purposes.
Whilst I don’t have much to say about the lemon, raspberry and rose cake that I’d devoured or the latte that I ordered, besides the fact that they were extremely light and did not fulfill my sweet-tooth cravings, (nothing wrong with them, just pretty average) the whole eating experience was tainted by the fact that I was surrounded and watched the whole time by an eager, and impatient crowd of people (it was rather awkward).
Of course I couldn’t leave the cafe until I’d gotten a pic of the entrance, but due to the excited crowd of tourists and Instagrammers encircled around the building, I was unable to get a good picture without stepping on anyone’s toes or getting someone’s head in the shot. Maybe if I were there for some serious Instagramming, I would’ve been more dedicated to getting the perfect shot. However, I simply settled for the image above and a quick edit in VSCO.
All in all, the main thing I’ve learned is that people visit the cafe for the aesthetic and not the food—which is fine for them but not particularly for a foodie like me. Will I be visiting Peggy Porschen again? Probably not. But I can’t say the unfamiliar experience wasn’t exciting in the slightest. It is great fun if you enjoy a nosy people-watching session like me, but with a splash of drama and extravagancy. Those pink and white plates and dainty forks were cute too…