Central London institution the India Club has confirmed it will open its doors as soon as indoor dining in England resumes on 17 May — the second major date on the government’s reopening “roadmap.” In spite of the looming threat of eviction from its landlord, Marston Properties, the restaurant is continuing a court battle financed in part by a Crowdfunder campaign which is set to finish at 11 a.m. on Thursday 15 April. The fund is currently just shy of its target of £50,000, which will meet its legal costs alongside contributions from its owners’ personal savings.
The India Club’s Crowdfunder states that the landlord wants to convert the restaurant space into hotel accommodation; the restaurant has been at the property for over half a century, and has not changed a great deal in that time. Its general manager, Phiroza Marker said today, 14 April, that she is “eternally optimistic” for the future of the India Club. She hopes that she and her family, who have owned and managed the business for 24 years, will continue to “have a thriving restaurant for years to come,” she told Eater London.
The India Club believes that popular support will strengthen its campaign against eviction. Marker said that by opening, it can show it is a “successful business, with a really strong community value.” Groups of customers that have propped up the restaurant’s original 1960s bar for decades, such as the Curry Club, have “spread the word far and wide,” she said. So too have academics and students from the nearby universities, as well as national and international media. The restaurant’s campaign also received £5,000 from the Mayor of London’s Back to Business Fund, and a letter of support from the Deputy Mayor.
After months of furlough, the India Club’s staff are “really excited to come back,” Marker said. As well as implementing COVID-compliant safety measures, the enforced closure has given its chefs the opportunity to perfect some new dishes for the menu, including garlic mogo (cassava), and king prawn pakoras. The restaurant also plans to introduce a South Indian “bottomless brunch” in a bid to attract new customers.
The India Club hopes that the well-publicised struggle to save the restaurant will bring in plenty of diners this summer. It has successfully fought off an eviction threat before, and the previous campaign reinvigorated the restaurant’s already loyal customer base. Up until then it had been “a very word of mouth kind of place,” Marker said; the publicity helped to introduce the institution on the Strand to a wider clientele.
The India Club submitted its formal defence this month, filing a legal document with the courts to oppose the eviction proceedings, but this is just the first step in challenging the landlord’s plans. The restaurant’s team expects that a backlog of cases, partly due to the pandemic, means a court hearing may be a while away.
In the meantime, the India Club, like many other restaurant dining rooms across London, is gearing up to welcome diners back in May. While the legal battle continues, staff and management are spacing out the tables and chairs for the first time since December, and putting the final touches on the new menu. The restaurant’s staff say they are “raring to go,” Marker said. Against a background of uncertainty about the future, the India Club is doing all it can in the present to make a success of its imminent reopening.