Britain’s love affair with Indian food started as a direct result of the British involvement in India - as far as the British are concerned curry first appeared on the menu as long ago as 1780.
London’s Veeraswamy’s Indian Restaurant, which opened in 1929 claims to be the oldest surviving Indian Restaurant. It is believed that it was there that lager was introduced to become the now traditional accompaniment to curry.
Initially only in London, Indian restaurants spread all over the UK between the wars. In 1970 there were 1200 Indian Restaurants in the country and it was at about this time that the Indian Take away was born - they spread rapidly, only 30 years later it was estimated that there were 8,000 Indian Takeaways in the UK!
Most Indian restaurants are not actually owned by Indians at all but by Bangladeshis and, particularly in the north of the country, Pakistanis. But wherever they are from these take away owners keep the British palette satisfied with cuisines from all over Asia, including dishes from Indian, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Persia and many more cultures.
One extremely popular dish, Chicken Tikka Masalla, has its origins much closer to home - a British diner who had ordered Chicken Tikka in an Indian restaurant, complained that the dish lacked gravy and the chef improvised with a can of Tomato soup, some cream and some spices to produce a sauce - Chicken Tikka Masalla was born! This dish was declared a British national dish in 2001 by the then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and today 23 million portions of Chicken Tikka Massala a year are sold by Indian Restaurateurs.
The British love affair with Indian Cuisine is complete!
The first Indian Curry house outside of India was opened in London by Shaykh Din Muhammad, a captain in the British East India Company. It was opened in 1810 but closed a year later due to lack of trade. It was ahead of it’s time but blazed a trail which has been followed by thousands of successful businesses serving the British love of Indian cooking.