• Friday, September 22, 2023


Iconic India Club in London with roots in Indian freedom struggle to shut next month

Shashi Tharoor, an Indian parliament and former minister and the son of one of the club’s founders, lamented the announcement.

The iconic India Club in London will shut down permanently on September 17, 2023. (Picture: X/@ShashiTharoor)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE he iconic India Club in London is set to shut down permanently in September after failing to win a long battle against its closure, leaving several non-resident Indians in the UK as well as nostalgic hearts in India shattered.

The club — a historic meeting venue besides an eatery in the heart of London’s Strand which had its early roots in India’s freedom struggle as a hub for nationalists — has been served a notice by the landlords to make way for a more modernised hotel. In the past, it had won a battle against getting demolished. But not any more.

Proprietors Yadgar Marker and his daughter Phiroza started a “Save India Club” appeal to keep the place going but have now announced that September 17 will be the final day in the life of the club, which once saw the presence of the likes of VK Krishna Menon, India’s first high commissioner to the UK and one of its founding members.

“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.

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 in August 1947.

“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,” said 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.

Shashi Tharoor rues

Indian parliamentarian and former minister Shashi Tharoor lamented the club’s closure announcement. The London-born veteran’s journalist father Chandran Tharoor was one of the founders of the 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 also triggered a flood of responses from people expressing their sadness at the loss of a slice of British Indian history in London.

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