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India-themed cafe in London offering ‘Gandhi vegan breakfast’ faces protest

The Blighty India Cafe in Tottenham is reportedly adorned with Hindi and a neon Gandhi on the wall. Its owners are not Indian and the food is not Indian, but which glorifies the British Empire.

world Updated: Jan 24, 2018 22:35 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India. London
India cafe in London,mahatma Gandhi,British Empire
A café in London offers the full English breakfast in three variants - the Winston as the non-vegetarian version, the Clementine as the vegetarian option, and the Gandhi as the vegan breakfast.(Getty Images / Representative photo)

A cafe based on an Indian theme and offering ‘The Gandhi’ vegan breakfast on its menu is facing protests by some activists who believe it glorifies the British Empire and presents a “garish” colonial view of India.

The Blighty India Cafe in Tottenham, north London, says it takes inspiration from the “great Commonwealth powerhouse of India, championing it through our decor, menu and atmosphere”.

However, an online petition started by some Labour Party activists is urging local Tottenham MP David Lammy to force the cafe to change its theme.

“It is adorned with Hindi and a neon Gandhi on the wall. The owners are not Indian, and the food is not Indian, but British with an Indian ‘twist’ - which frankly many Indians would find offensive. It is a garish colonial view of India, stereotyped and built for English consumption,” notes the petition started by Indian-origin activist Zainab Khan along with a few others.

The cafe is the second one set up in London by the Blighty Commonwealth of Cafes and is based on the concept of sourcing coffee beans from Commonwealth countries.

“We are serious about coffee. We source our beans from Commonwealth countries - Rwanda, Kenya, India, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Malawi and roast them ourselves to ensure we are serving the highest quality drink possible,” says the company’s mission statement.

The signature dish at both cafes in north London isthe full English breakfast in three variants - the Winston as the traditional non-vegetarian version, the Clementine is a vegetarian option, and the Gandhi as “the only vegan full English breakfast we know of”.

“We never imagined that Churchill or Gandhi would attract complaints. We thought they were both widely-liked and admired figures,” said co-owner Chris Evans.

“All we are doing is celebrating a true British hero in Churchill and the ties between Britain and Commonwealth countries through the mediums of coffee and food,” he said.

The petition against the Blighty India Cafe comes a few months after a street art mural of Britain’s war-time Prime Minister outside the company’s first eatery, the Blighty UK Cafe in Finsbury Park, was vandalised.

Churchill’s famous two-fingers’ victory sign pose alongside the slogan “double shot” implied a double espresso coffee order. But it had to be removed after vandals repeatedly defaced the art-work by spraying words such as “warmonger” and “imperialist”.

Blighty is an informal term for Britain or England and is traced back to the “bilayat” and “bilayati” used by soldiers from the Indian sub-continent during the First and Second World Wars.

First Published: Jan 24, 2018 22:34 IST