The India Club in London, with its early roots in the Indian independence movement as a hub for nationalists including Krishna Menon, will shut down next month after losing a protracted battle against its closure.
The historic meeting venue and eatery, which had won its battle to prevent the building in the heart of London’s Strand from demolition a few years ago, was served a notice by the landlords to make way for a more modernised hotel.
Proprietors Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza launched a “Save India Club” appeal as they fought to keep it going but now announced its impending closure.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the closure of the India Club, with our last day open to the public on September 17,” they said.
The India Club has its roots in the India League, which campaigned for Indian independence in Britain, with its founding members including Krishna Menon – who went on to become the first Indian High Commissioner to the UK.
As well as housing one of the UK’s early Indian restaurants, the Club quickly transformed into a hub for a rapidly growing British South Asian community in the aftermath of Indian independence and Partition.
“Since its opening over 70 years ago, the India Club has been a home-away-from-home for first-generation immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, as well as a community space for Indo-British groups,” said Phiroza, who has been helping out her father at the Club since childhood.
“Menon intended the India Club to be a place where young Indian professionals living on a shoestring could afford to eat, discuss politics, and plan their futures,” noted Parvathi Raman, Founding Chair of the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), when she worked on the exhibition ‘A Home Away from Away: The India Club’ in 2019, curated by the UK’s conservation charity National Trust.
The Club, which has functioned as an Indian restaurant on the Strand near the Indian High Commission since 1946, is located on the first floor of the 26-room Strand Continental Hotel.
The India Club, which for decades has served popular Indian dishes like butter chicken and masala dosas has long played an important role in serving the Asian community in London.
The freeholder of the building, Marston Properties, had earlier put in an application with Westminster City Council for a “partial demolition” to create a new hotel. The application was unanimously turned down by the Council in August 2018, noting the venue’s importance as a cultural institution in the heart of London.
Tharoor laments closure
Senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor took to social media to lament the closure announcement, given his journalist father Chandran Tharoor’s connection with the historic venue.
“As the son of one of its founders, I lament the passing of an institution that served so many Indians (and not only Indians) for nearly three-quarters of a century.
“For many students, journalists and travellers, it was a home away from home, offering simple and good quality Indian food at affordable prices as well as a convivial atmosphere to meet and maintain friendships,” he posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
It triggered a flood of responses from people expressing their sadness at the loss of a slice of British Indian history in London.