Following the news that Notting Hill institution Da Maria is under threat of closure, storied central restaurant The India Club has joined its west London companion in petitioning against impending loom. At the time of writing, the petition, aimed at Westminster City Council, has 1,249 of its targeted 2000 supporters.
Based at 143-145 on The Strand, it has been revealed that the freeholders of the building are looking to modernise the site, in a slap in the face to a restaurant that has remained — cracked lobby mosaic and all — much unchanged since its opening in the 1940s. Originally a meeting place for writers and intellectuals of the era, as well as a food and drink outpost, the restaurant has since been absorbed by the Strand Continental Hotel, the expansion of which threatens the future of the India Club.
The petition states that the owners "want to preserve the building and its uses as they are and also preserve the rich cultural history they represent ... a crucial part of the joint heritage of the UK and India." Yadgar Marker, director of the club for 20 years, said "We have preserved it, kept it all the same. The ambience is still the same, the furniture is still the same. People feel as if they are in Mumbai or Calcutta as they walk up the stairs."
Comments on the restaurant’s petition page include, from Fiona T,: “London is sleepwalking into a commercialised ghost-town and by the time we wake up to realise our high streets have lost their history, charm and individuality it could be too late.” While Jenny S. says, “A civilised society should preserve the best examples of its history for the generations to come. End of story.”
"Bastard Turncoat" and new Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin recently visited The India Club for reasons of atmosphere over food — not out of culinary merit but out of "deep affection. I love it in the same way I’m drawn to the novels of Anita Brookner or EM Forster; to small films set in run-down Roman apartment blocks and gloomy Indian call centres; to side streets in unknown cities where old milliners and haberdashers miraculously survive, their windows shielded by sepia-coloured film."
Whether or not the petition will succeed remains to be seen; with stories such as this growing increasingly common, perhaps consumers are growing more attuned to the transience of restaurants, even if such compassion has taken root too late.