A guest post by London Historians member, Emma Jolly.
The Hindoostane Coffee House was the first establishment in London dedicated solely to Indian food. This wonderful curry house was opened in 1809 by former Indian camp-follower, Deen Mahomet (later Sake [Sheikh] Dean Mahomed) at 34 George Street near Portman Square, London.
In the advertisement of the Coffee House’s opening, the ‘Indian dishes’ served by Mahomed were described as being ‘in the highest perfection, and allowed by the greatest epicures to be unequalled to any curries ever made in England . . .’ Not only were the tastes magnificent, the experience of just being there must have been impressive. The Epicures Almanack wrote later that, ‘All the dishes were dressed with curry powder, rice, cayenne and the best spices of Arabia. A room was set apart for smoking from hookahs with oriental herbs. The rooms were neatly fitted up en suite and furnished with chairs and sofas made of bamboo canes, Chinese pictures and other Asiatic embellishments.’ I would have like to dressed in my best Georgian finery, carrying a fan to dispel the smoke from the hookahs, and relaxed in the bamboo sofa.
Sadly, it isn’t to be as Mahomed became bankrupt in 1812. He moved on to Brighton, though, and great success as a ‘shampooing surgeon’ and masseur to, amongst others, George IV. Today, Dean Mahomed and his short-lived but innovative enterprise are remembered by a Green Plaque on the front of the “Site of Hindoostane Coffee House 1810 London’s First Indian Restaurant” at the present 102 George Street.