I am looking for a phrase/word for a place which looks good decor wise but bad products wise.

Context: I went to a coffee shop that looked stunning but their products and service were not good. And my sentence is: The coffee shop was ___________.

My original thought was cosmetic, but someone told me is it not appropriate here.

What would you use in this case?


  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. Could you also fill in the blank with words or phrases that you think would fit (and why they weren't a good fit in your opinion). Otherwise the question is too broad.
    – rajah9
    Jun 7, 2019 at 11:47
  • @rajah9, thanks. I just edited it.
    – mfg
    Jun 7, 2019 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


To be "all show" or "all image" would suggest something which is all about the outward appearance and not the inward reality. Oxford Dictionaries define "all show" as "An outward display intended to give a false impression."

"style over substance" fits the case well: it refers to valuing looks over content. It's a commonly used phrase (random example) but I can't find it in most dictionaries: EnglishBaby has a brief definition

The best expression would depend on if the place is particularly well-designed or merely draws the eye through lots of colours and decoration and fashionable things. There are other expressions for a place which is garish, ostentatious, and perhaps vulgar in its appearance with nothing of substance behind. This includes idioms like the British "all fur coat and no knickers" (defined in Free Dictionary as "To be attractive on the surface but lack substance underneath."), but this might be vulgar to some or obscure to non-British people.

"Showy" is somewhat similar - Merriam-Webster's usage note says "SHOWY, PRETENTIOUS, OSTENTATIOUS mean given to excessive outward display. SHOWY implies an imposing or striking appearance but usually suggests cheapness or poor taste."

"Meretricious" is defined by one dictionary as "seeming attractive but really false or of little value"; it originally referred to prostitutes, and MW suggests it typically refers to vulgar or garish displays, so it may or may not fit.

  • Ahhh, "all show" and "style over substance"! Great idioms Jun 7, 2019 at 12:38
  • Thanks a lot!!!! I want to learn English with you, OMG. Do you teach somewhere, like on italki?
    – mfg
    Jun 7, 2019 at 12:52
  • By the way, the place is well-designed.
    – mfg
    Jun 7, 2019 at 12:58

I would be descriptive, at the sake of conciseness, so as to help the readers. Something like:

The coffee shop was aesthetically pleasing but lacked quality service and products. [describe why the service and products lack quality here].

If you really want to be concise:

The coffee shop was purely/merely aesthetic.

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