“The India Club” in London is an institution. Soon one that has been, because the last chapter of the legendary restaurant has been written. This week, the historic gem will close its doors to make way for a luxury hotel. What remains is the memory of a place that was a home away from home for many South Asian immigrants for more than 70 years.

It was the India League, an organization formed in the 1920s to campaign for India’s independence, which, after independence, founded the club to promote Indo-British friendship. The founding members included India’s first prime minister and his wife Penelope “Penny” Knatchbull, also known as Countess Mountbatten of Burma. That was more than 70 years ago.

“The India Club” quickly developed into a cultural meeting place where contacts were made and those seeking advice found a listening ear. The India Club was a place of familiarity in a foreign country, where it smelled and tasted like home, where people looked at familiar faces and understood each other because their tongues were in time with each other.

Inconspicuous, easy to miss and out of date – “The India Club” in the Hotel Strand Continental was never exclusive and yet almost exclusively an insider tip for those in the know. For almost 30 years, Yadgar Marker operated the club, and he guarded the space like a time capsule. The interior of the club, which doubled as a restaurant and lounge bar, had not changed since the early days. On Sunday, the portraits of Indian freedom fighters Mahatma Gandhi and Krishna Menon will be removed from the walls. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the closure of the India Club,” Yadgar Marker told Hindustan Times. On September 17th, the India Club will open to guests for the last time.

“It breaks your heart,” said Phiroza Marker, who started helping out at the club when she was ten and most recently ran it with her father. Since its opening, The India Club has been a second home for first-generation immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and a place of community for British-Indian groups. The club will also leave a culinary gap on the Thames. “Another huge loss for the London restaurant world. The India Club has been there for 70 years and is now being pushed out by city developers,” said gastro critic Jay Rayner on X.

The Sword of Damocles had been hanging over the club for some time. The end was already threatened in 2018. At that time, it was Westminster City Council that ensured its continued existence by rejecting the application of the responsible real estate company to convert the hotel. The historical value of the building was too important, it was said at the time. The plan to have the building listed and thus preserved failed. More than 26,000 people supported the petition.

Quellen: The India Club, Hindustan Times, The Guardian, Evening Standard,DailyMail