A mouth-watering menu from Britain’s first Indian restaurant containing exclusive dishes like ‘Pineapple Pullaoo’ and ‘Chicken Currey’ has been sold here for USD 11,344. Hindoostane Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club was established by Sake Dean Mahomed in 1809 at Portman Square in London. Mohamed, an Anglo-Indian traveller and businessman with roots in Bihar, who was among the very early migrants to England from India, had opened the restaurant to bring the taste of Indian food to the UK. However, the venture did not last long, with Mahomed declaring bankruptcy in 1812. His restaurant struggled on as the ‘Hindostanee Coffee House’ under a new management for another 20 years, but finally disappeared in 1833.
A rare volume of a cookery manuscript containing the glimpse of the handwritten menu from the restaurant fetched 8,500 pounds (USD 11,344 or Rs 759,996) at a book fair here. “There are plenty of printed and manuscript recipes for curries from the 18th century, but this book of receipts is the first known record of a priced menu from Britain’s first Indian restaurant – at a time when printed menus were rarely available from any type of restaurant,” said Brian Lake, partner at Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers in London, which sold the volume containing the menu at the ABA Rare Book Fair to an American institution last month. “You could even have a take-away – or rather, the proprietors undertook to deliver and serve a meal in your home – if you could afford it,” Lake said.
The ‘Comprehensive Late Eighteenth Century Manuscript Receipt Book’, which has the title ‘Receipt Book 1786’ on the front and also contains extensive hand-written recipes and receipts, includes a two-page hand-written “Bill of Fare” from Hindoostane Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club, listing 25 Indian dishes together with prices. These include “Makee Pullaoo (1.1.0 pounds), Pineapple Pullaoo (1.16.0 pounds), Chicken Currey (0.12.0 pounds), Lobster Curry (0.12.0 pounds), Coolmah of Lamb or Veal (0.8.0 pounds), together with breads, chutneys and other exclusively Indian dishes”. It ends by noting that there are “various other dishes too numerous for insertion”.
Included towards the end of the volume is a recipe “to make a curry powder”, attributed to Lord Teignmouth (1751-1834). John Shore became Lord Teignmouth in 1798, having served as the Governor-General of Bengal between 1793-1797. He returned to England in 1798 and moved to Portman Square in 1808, in the vicinity of Mohamed’s Hindoostane Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club. The manuscript’s detailed history notes: “An advertisement in the ‘Morning Post’ in February 1810 indicates that Teignmouth, as a local resident, could have enjoyed a very early experience of Britain’s favourite Friday night, an Indian takeaway: ‘Saik Deen Mahomad… established at his house, 34 George Street, Portman-Square, the Hindostanee Dinner and Hooka Smoking Club.
“Apartments are fitted up for their entertainment in the Eastern style, where dinners, composed of genuine Hindostanee dishes, are served up at the shortest notice… Such ladies and gentlemen as may be desirous of having India Dinners dressed and sent to their own houses will be punctually attended to by giving previous notice'”. There is no known record either of who the chef was, because Mahomed was a businessman rather than a cook, or the food that was served.
The “bill of fare”, therefore, is seen as the first record of what was served, and at what price, in England’s first Indian restaurant. The manuscript belonged to Augusta Leeke, with the first 66 pages in a neat 18th century hand with the remaining pages in a number of occasionally “challenging hands”. The recipes throughout the collection indicate a household of relative wealth and sophistication but not extravagance. There are recipes for “Fish Currie, Fish sauce to keep a year, To stew bullocks cheek, Rabbit Pie, and potted salmon together with an array of preserves, pickles and desserts”.
Although largely culinary, there are some medicinal receipts in the volume, including “Dr Cameron’s receipt to make anondyne powder, For a consumption, and For a pain in the face”. Although the volume appears to have originated in Shropshire in the West Midlands, some of the later entries indicate that it ended up in London.