In the UK today, chances are you, or somebody you know, has eaten an Indian or Pakistani dish within the past month. Most will have gone to a local restaurant, too. After all, they are one of the most popular restaurants to attend as well as one of the most popular takeaway choices.
These types of cuisine are a mainstay in British homes and in British culture, but when did the first Indian restaurant first open in the UK?
Sake Dean Mohamed, born in the 18th century, was a man of many talents: surgeon, Entrepreneur, soldier and famed traveller. Mohamed was one of the most famous early immigrants to the UK from outside of Europe. His name may not be remembered for Indian restaurants, but it was his founding of the very first curry establishment that paved the way for Indian restaurants to become such a staple on British towns and cities 200 years later.
The earliest curry houses were originally known as cafes or coffee houses. Sake Dean Mohamed’s Hindoostane Coffee House in Portman Square, London, was the first opportunity for locals unable to travel far afield, to be treated to spicy dishes from the subcontinent. This was also the first time a lot of diners experienced spices such as cumin, coriander, ginger and fenugreek used to create flavours unlike anything they had experienced before.
It took time for the British public to develop their taste for a curry. By 1939, the number of Indian restaurants had grown to just six across the whole of Britain. The real boom in Indian restaurants is credited to the period after World War 2 as people from India and Pakistan arrived to help with the rebuild of London after the Blitz. More and more of the new visitors started to establish cafes and canteens for the workers to find a taste of home. Those who owned the cafes soon began opening restaurants for the locals to enjoy.
From then, the number of Indian restaurants has grown in the UK and there is now tens of thousands of Indian restaurants to be found across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To experience authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine, visit Royal Nawaab’s halal restaurant in London today.