In the age of Instagram, the defining feature of a bar is often determined not by reviews, tastes or intent, but by smartphone. While some spaces are designed with this express purpose in mind, there are certain objects that become inadvertent icons through their unwitting “Instagram-ability.” In this series, PUNCH shares the stories behind the bar world’s most viral landmarks.
From the pewtered-steel chandeliers to an eclectic mix of Late Baroque-inspired daybeds, the interior of New York City restaurant Le Coucou—designed by Roman and Williams—exudes an undeniably Parisian ambience. But it’s the ornate service bar tucked into the entryway—and its eternal emptiness—that draws the most attention.
Artist Dean Barger’s hand-painted mural of foliage and rich shadows—inspired by Hubert Robert’s 18th century landscapes—establishes a moody backdrop for the eye-catching workstation. Elaborate floral arrangements bookend each side of the marble countertop, which hug an inset archway that houses an array of vermouths and Jeroboams of green and yellow Chartreuse. But while these picturesque bottles are Instagram fodder in their own right, the true appeal for Insta-obsessed guests is the bar’s utter lack of activity.
More often than not, the bar is captured at its emptiest, with no diners-in-waiting nor bartenders in sight. It’s a stark contrast to the buzzing SoHo neighborhood just outside the door, where restaurants are packed with guests waiting for tables. Perhaps this is part of its allure—the sheer emptiness. In one of many eerily barren snapshots, an Instagram user writes, “This has obviously been shot again & again and posted, but it’s the first time I’d ever seen it in person and it did NOT disappoint.”
In fact, it was even a draw for socialite-turned-scam artist Anna Sorokin (better known as Anna Delvey, the SoHo Grifter), who hosted a number of business meetings at Le Coucou to “fundraise” for her latest ventures in the art world. One caption of the ever-popular vacant bar describes the setting as “Eloise’s fever dream,” a nod to the restaurant’s intentional New York-meets-Paris charm. Another, meanwhile, knowingly jabs the well-heeled (or at least deceivingly well-heeled) clientele: “@theannadelvey would be proud (except I actually paid).”