Grabbing a Curry in Regency England

Sake Dean Mahomed by Thomas Mann Baynes (c. 1810)
Sake Dean Mahomed by Thomas Mann Baynes (c. 1810)

I’m still having fun digging into The Epicure’s Almanack and have found another rather interesting rabbit hole to fall down. I think many of us know that in England “a curry” is the undisputed king of takeaway. It’s also (along with kebab) the top food sought out by late night drunks. So when I stumbled across information about the first Indian restaurant in England having been established in 1810, I had instantaneous visions of Regency rakes getting a curry after the theatre, perhaps with actresses in tow.

Now for the history part … Sake Deen Mahomet came to England in 1782, accompanying his friend Captain Godfrey Evan Baker when the captain retired from the British East India Company in which they had both served. He eloped with an Irish girl a few years later (over her family’s objections) and from all evidence the marriage was a great success. One of their sons was the proprietor of the Turkish baths at Brighton and ran a boxing and fencing academy there as well. A grandson went on to be an internationally famous physician! Those looking for a model for a non-Caucasian hero, take note!!! This guy and his descendants would be great models.

In 1794, Mahammad published The Travels of Dean Mahomet (a prime example of a book which Google has scanned but which is now unavailable, I assume because this annotated version from 1997 is in print).

In 1810, Mahomet opened the Hindoostanee Coffee House at no. 34 George Street (near Portman Square). They offered Indian cuisine, fine wines, and hookahs. Unfortunately, the restaurant does not appear to have been a great success, and it closed a couple years later. This is what The Epicure’s Almanack has to say about it:

“At the corner of George Street, there was until very lately an establishment on a novel plan. Mohammed, a native of Asia, opened a house for the purpose of giving dinners in the Hindustanee style, with other refreshments of the genus. All dishes were dressed with curry-powder, rice, Cayenne, and the best 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.”

But fear not, by 1814 Mahomet and his wife were in Brighton, where they opened the first public “shampooing” bath in England (note: “shampooing was a type of massage and was conducted in a Turkish Bath-like steam room). Unlike his restaurant, his bathhouse was an enormous success (so much so that he was appointed as “shampooing surgeon” to George IV and William IV).

So bring it on, Regency authors! I want to see a private party at this establishment or one modeled after it. I want to see Anglo-Indian heroes. Are you with me, readers?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Grabbing a Curry in Regency England

Comments are closed.