The outfit: The India Club, 2nd floor of the Strand Continental Hotel, 143 Strand. Not the sort of establishment we expected to find nestled between the entrance to Somerset House and Waterloo Bridge.
The hours of business: Lunch served 12-2.30, dinner 6-11 every day of the week.
The bottom line: One look up the narrow stairs beyond the doorway you’ve never noticed before is enough to convince that the India Club has existed almost as long as London has known curry. To hear the moustachioed waiter tell it, they opened in 1939 next to Charing Cross before moving to the current premises behind India House in the 1950s. We doubt any detail of the interior has changed since, from the deep red linoleum to the oil paintings of Mahatma Gandhi and Dadabhai Naoroji (further thanks to the waiter, who answered our query with a sheaf of informative web printouts about Britain’s first Asian MP.)
The local market: Simpson’s is all well and good but the Strand is hardly the most promising of streets for budget dining. There is that Zizzi restaurant where a man cut off his penis two years ago but that’s taking the BYO concept a bit too far. More than anything, it’s the lack of thrifty and interesting alternatives that keeps the India Club going — that and the convenient offie on the ground floor.
The bread, chips and gravy: The waiter immediately offered to put together a set meal for us, so we let him do his thing. Onion and chilli bhajis and a stack of papadums with pickles and chutneys kept us occupied for some time. The main features, accompanied by rice, roti, and curried potatoes, were announced as “lamb” and “chicken,” and it’s difficult to add much to those descriptions.
A capital choice for… Time travellers. This is a British curry house of the first generation, pre-dating even such fashions as takeaway and vindaloo. Some will say it’s a reminder best left to the 1950s, but judging by appearances on our visit it has its happy regulars. If you like the sound of a canteen-style meal with a view of St. Mary-in-the-Strand and a bottle of Kingfisher, this is your spot.
The damage: The spread we were offered came out to about £12/head and was at least as much as we could eat. A reasonable price for standard fare, and well worth it as a package deal, faded colonial atmosphere and all.