Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

Iconic venue for Goans in London to shut down

The India Club was the venue for regular meetings of Goan village associations, committee meetings of the Goan Association (GOA UK), the Save Goa Campaign-UK and a popular meeting place for Goans

LUI GODINHO | SEPTEMBER 15, 2023, 11:15 PM IST
Iconic venue for Goans in London to shut down

The India Club on the first and second floors of the Strand Continental Hotel in the city of Westminster in Central London.

Photo Credits: Lui Godinho


THE GOAN NETWORK | LONDON

The iconic India Club had been the venue of committee meetings of the Goan Association (GOA UK), the Save Goa Campaign-UK and a meeting point for Goans and various Goan village associations over the past six decades.

It was, therefore, no surprise that a number of Goans have expressed sadness over news that the India Club would be shutting down on September 17, amid reports that the freeholders, Marston Properties, plan to refurbish the six-storeyed building to create a modern tourist accommodation.

Located on the first and second floors of the Strand Continental Hotel on the Strand, along a major thoroughfare in the city of Westminster in Central London, the India Club had been a hub for the Indian diaspora communities, given its close proximity to the office of the High Commission of India.

The club, which was founded in 1951 and was later shifted to the Strand Continental hotel in 1964, had prominent founding members who included India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Countess Mountbatten, wife of the last viceroy of India, and the independence campaigner Krishna Menin, who became the first Indian High Commissioner to the UK.

The India Club had played an important role in the 1960s especially with the first arrivals of immigrants from south Asia to help rebuild post-war Britain.

The Goan community had been using this venue since the early 1960s, with various Goan village clubs meeting at this central London location. And it was not difficult to see why: The club offered a good bar which included Indian beers, an Indian restaurant which offered sumptuous cuisine at reasonable prices, and its prominent location was well connected to public transport facilities.

However, in recent years, the India Club had been fighting to stay open.

In 2017, when it became known that Marston Properties had plans to redevelop the six-storeyed building as a new tourist accommodation, several thousands of Londoners signed a petition opposing the closure of the India Club.

Plans to shut down the India Club got delayed on account of the Covid pandemic, but when it became known that the club would permanently shut down on September 17, people began thronging the iconic premises for their last Indian meal or a drink.


The restaurant on the second floor at the India Club was frequented by Goans for six decades.

Such has been the response that customers have been queueing up everyday, including weekends, with the line even reaching the pavement.

When The Goan visited the India Club on Wednesday, an English gentleman said he had been frequenting the place since the 1960s.

“I tried to make my way up, while at the same time people are coming down and it is not worth waiting as the crowd is just growing and are on the pavement,” he said.

According to sources, efforts are underway to find alternative premises to relocate the India Club, restaurant and bar, but given the skyrocketing property rates, finding suitable premises may not be easy. But for several Goans, the India Club at the Strand Continental Hotel will remain a cherished memory.

Goans share fond memories of India Club

India Club One of London’s best kept secrets the gem that is The India Club, is closing perhaps because its unique and priceless characteristic was taken for granted and not valued enough. In its last days, the unconditional support it offered and Its very particular specialness is being finally appreciated and openly acknowledged. It managed to somehow miraculously immunise itself from our constantly changing world by continuing to exist within a space-time capsule. A time traveller from the India of the 1950s would surely feel at home inside.

For India lovers and Indians in particular, the disappearance of this priceless relic whose loss is deeply felt should be a cautionary tale and a metaphor for what happens when we monetise and put a price on everything at the expense of true worth and value.

I first discovered it in the 1970s while studying at London School of Economics (1977) which was only 4 minutes away from the Indian High Commission. Its bar area’s meeting space has hosted as many globally oriented good causes as Indian ones, including the Save Goa Campaign-UK.

It offered either free or the cheapest central London meeting space to anybody who wanted to add value to communities and society anywhere. The irony is that at this very time of crisis when more social innovation is called for, one of the best and most accessible hubs and venues which has in the past facilitated this process is being plucked from our midst.
Tony Fernandes
Former member of the Save Goa Campaign-UK

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A few years after arriving in the UK, I was told that there was an India Club in the Strand which was very popular with Goans. I was invited to become a member of the club by the then Goan manager, a Mr Carrasco, if I remember correctly.

I promptly applied for membership and remained a member for many years. The Club had a subsidised bar which was very popular with the Goans as this often became a meeting place even for visiting Goans and others.

Tasty Indian snacks were also available, and the Club was also popular with diners. If my memory serves me, I believe there were a few individuals who lived in the club. The highlight of the year used to be the annual Diwali celebrations where many of us sat to a sumptuous Indian meal with drinks and Indian sweets served.

Years later, the Club became the venue for regular meetings of various Goan village associations. The atmosphere was always friendly. Because of its popularity, the Club also became a popular meeting place for Goans. My late wife and I were fairly regular visitors to the Club and, if I remember rightly, many Goans who worked in the Central London area used the Club as a meeting place.

There was disappointment when, years later, we heard talk of the possible closure of the club.
Mervyn Maciel
Former senior civil servant

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The India Club in London’s Strand has a special place in the hearts and minds of many UK-based Goans. And here is the reason why. In the 1960s, Goans started to arrive to the UK in significant numbers. Most of them headed for London and the suburbs.

The lifestyles they had enjoyed in East Africa, Kenya, Tanganyika aka Tanzania and Uganda, living as close knit communities were now just a memory as they found themselves striving to make a new start in a new country.

But Goans are a gregarious lot and so, it wasn’t long before they sought out a place to socialise on a regular basis. That place was the India Club. Its central London location was a convenient place to meet with the added bonus that one was assured of getting one of the tastiest fish curry and rice for miles around.

It is said that the idea to form a Goan Association (GOA UK)was born at one of these gatherings. I can vouch that many a committee meeting of the Goan Association was held at the India Club. Doris, the caretaker, was extremely tolerant and would let us carry on long after closing time. It was here that the decision to purchase the recreation ground in Bromley from the Times newspaper was taken.

Even after the Association acquired the recreation ground, the committee continued to have formal meetings and informal impromptu gatherings at the India Club just so we could enjoy the hospitality and congeniality that the India Club London offered. It is sad that this era has now finally had to end.
Rabi Martins
Former President of The Goan Association UK

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