A historic menu from the first Indian restaurant in London has sold for $11,344.
The Hindostanee Dinner and Hooka Club was founded in 1809 in London’s Portman Square. Owner Sake Dean Mohamed, an Anglo-Indian businessman from Bihar was one of the first Indians to settle and open an establishment in England. He had the ambitious goal of introducing Indian food to British people.
His menu featured dishes like Pineapple Pullaoo and ‘Chicken Currey.’ But perhaps the British palate wasn’t ready for such delicacies, because Mohamed’s business struggled and he declared bankruptcy in 1812. His restaurant, however, did manage to continue operating for another two decades. Renamed the Hindostanee Coffee House, it served Londoners until closing its doors in 1833.
Experts at the ABA rare book fair, where the menu was sold, said it contained a treasure trove of information. “There are plenty of printed and manuscript recipes for curries from the 18th century, but this book of receipts is the first known record of a priced menu from Britain’s first Indian restaurant at a time when printed menus were rarely available from any type of restaurant,”Brian Lake, a partner at Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers, told Tribune India. The Hindostanee Dinner and Hooka Club was also forward thinking for another service they offered: a takeout service.
“The proprietors undertook to deliver and serve a meal in your home if you could afford it,” Lake noted.
A 2016 article in Londonist noted the “rather flowery” advertisement Mohamed took out in 1810 touting his new restaurant. “Sake Dean Mahomed, manufacturer of the real currie powder, takes the earliest opportunity to inform the nobility and gentry, that he has, under the patronage of the first men of quality who have resided in India, established at his house, 34 George Street, Portman Square, the Hindoostane Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club,” it read.
He continued by raving about the dishes on the menu and the club’s decor. “Apartments are fitted up for their entertainment in the Eastern style, where dinners, composed of genuine Hindoostane dishes, are served up at the shortest notice… Such ladies and gentlemen as may desirous of having India Dinners dressed and sent to their own houses will be punctually attended to by giving previous notice…”
Adventurous diners in Regency England could also sample dishes like “Makee Pullaoo” and “Coolmah of Lamb or Veal” along with “breads, chutneys and other exclusively Indian dishes.”
If you are like us, reading about Mohamed’s historic restaurant has probably made you quite hungry. Check out these lobster, salmon and shrimp recipes for some dinner ideas. More interested in vegetarian fare? These chana masala tacos are just the thing.
Photo credit: Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers with artistic modifications