The Corner

Indian Restaurant History

In order to forestall more email in response to the G-File, from a reader:

Dear Jonah:

You will probably end up with many more such emails from those vastly more

well-informed, but:

http://www.menumagazine.co.uk/book/restauranthistory.html

The critical passage is:

The first recorded Indian restaurant of the twentieth century was the Salut

e Hind in Holborn in 1911 but the first to have any real influence was The

Shafi opened by Mohammed Wayseem and Mohammed Rahim in 1920. Coming from

North India they opened their cafe in London’s Gerard Street (now the centre

of London’s Chinatown) and employed four or five ex seamen. It soon became a

kind of community and Indian Student Centre. Indian students in the UK rose

from 100 in 1880 to 1800 by 1931.

Soon The Shafi was taken over by Dharam Lal Bodua and run by an English

manager with employees such as Israil Miah and Gofur Miah who were later to

run their own establishments. One of Dharam’s great friends was Bir Bahadur

from Delhi who opened The Kohinoor in Roper Street (pulled down in 1978) and

was to have a major influence on the industry.

These restaurants were, not surprisingly, mainly for Asians but in 1927 the

first fashionable Indian restaurant opened when Edward Palmer opened

Veeraswamy’s Indian Restaurant in London’s Regent Street where it still

thrives today owned by Ranjit Mathrani and Namita Panjabi. Edward Palmer had

been greatly encouraged by friends and acquaintances after his successful

running of the Mughal Palace in The Empire Exhibition at Wembley a few years

before and he brought staff from India and created a traditional atmosphere

such that it became called “The ex-Indian higher serviceman’s curry club”.

Many of the people from all over India who were later to become the backbone

of the new ‘curry’ restaurant industry, learned their trade at The

Veeraswamy.

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