Plans for London’s historic India Club cook up storm

Staff clean tables as people eat lunch inside the India Club restaurant in London on October 16, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2017
0

Plans for London’s historic India Club cook up storm

LONDON: Plans to renovate a historic and beloved Indian restaurant in central London are causing a stir, pitting the developers against high profile defenders, including intellectuals, Anglo-Indian businessmen and lawmakers from both countries.
The India Club, a restaurant and bar on the Strand near London’s West End, is trying to use its storied history to block proposals by owners Marston Properties to turn the seven story building into an upmarket boutique hotel.
“This is a very historic place, we haven’t changed anything,” Yadgar Marker, the club’s current director, told AFP during a recent lunchtime dosa — an Indian pancake — and various curry dishes flew out the kitchen.
“Even these tabletops are from the early ‘50s... It’s like a museum,” he said.
The club was set up in its current location by Krishna Menon, India’s first High Commissioner to Britain, in the early 1950s, and counted Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s inaugural prime minister, among its founding members, Marker said.
It has served as a meeting place for writers, intellectuals and politicians, Marker wrote earlier this month to Westminster Council, the local authority in charge of planning decisions.
Marston Properties submitted its application on September 8 to Westminster Council to partially demolish and extend the building.
It currently houses a bakery and convenience store on the ground floor and the India Club and Hotel Strand Continental on the upper levels.
Marker, who has run the club and hotel for the last 20 years, said he was “quite surprised” to learn of the plans in an email from the company.
With their seven-year lease set to expire in 2019, he fears it will mean the end of the club.
The club has applied for the building to receive protected status from Historic England, which recommends which sites of cultural value the British government should designate.
A spokesman for the public body confirmed it had visited the club earlier this month, and would make a decision on whether to recommend listing it by January 19, 2018.
Simon Marshall of Marston Properties told AFP it was cooperating with Historic England “to establish the true heritage links of this building.”
He said the company had commissioned its own independent historical research into the club.
“The extent of (the) heritage links... are not in fact particularly clear,” he added.
Marshall stressed no final decision had been made to redevelop building.
Loyal longtime customers have been voicing their support.
A petition launched by the club had garnered over 14,000 signatures by Monday.
“It means the world to generations of Indians,” said Kalyan Thapa, a patron since the 1960s, as he ate with friends there on Monday.
“You can’t knock it down and erase history.”
High profile fans including sculptor Anish Kapoor, writer Will Self and Indian lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, have also leapt to its defense, writing letters of support that Marker has sent on to Westminster Council.
“I think the loss of the club would constitute another step-up in the social, ethnic and cultural ‘cleansing’ of central London’s commercial environment,” Self told AFP.
“Already, smaller and more diverse businesses are being lost from the West End in droves, it creates an arid, aseptic environment in which every cubic foot of space feels commoditised.”


Did Younes Bendjima just call Kourtney Kardashian out on Instagram?

Kourtney Kardashian is dating French-Algerian model Younes Bendjima. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 17 July 2018
0

Did Younes Bendjima just call Kourtney Kardashian out on Instagram?

DUBAI: The Kardashians are no strangers to harsh comments on social media, but did Kourtney Kardashian’s boyfriend — Algerian-born model Younes Bendjima — just troll her on Instagram?
According to US-based website The Shade Room and the entertainment world’s vault of all things scandalous, TMZ, the 25-year-old model left an unsavory comment on a snap that the mother-of-three posted on Monday.
Kardashian shared a snap of herself wearing a floral-print bikini with the caption, “Don’t be shady, be a lady,” alongside a sunshine emoji. The photo leaves little to the imagination, with the reality TV star wearing a wide-brimmed, floppy hat and a skimpy swimsuit.
According to media reports, Bendjima commented: “That’s what you need to show to get likes?” in a now deleted post.
“Kourtney, your man has questions sis. Y’all think he was just playing or nah? The comment has since been deleted (sic),” The Shade Room posted on its Instagram account.
In retaliation, fans of the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star flooded Bendjima’s Instagram account with similar comments on photos in which the model is posing without his shirt.
The pair just returned from a much-documented-on-social-media holiday in Italy’s Capri, which Kardashian’s three children — Penelope, Mason and Reign Disick — enjoyed with the lovebirds. Mother and manager — momager, if you will — Kris Jenner also made a surprise appearance on the yachting vacation.
Kardashian and Bendjima reportedly met during Paris Fashion Week in October 2016, when Kim Kardashian West was robbed at gunpoint.
According to W Magazine, he stepped in to act as a translator between the Kardashian family and French police.
Bendjima, who reportedly previously dated model British Jourdan Dunn, splits his time between New York and Paris — where his mother lives — and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French.

He was scouted in 2011 and made his runway debut in 2013, walking the catwalk for French fashion house Givenchy. The model has also starred in campaigns for Hermes, Calvin Klein, Burberry and Ralph Lauren among other high-end brands.