Today, more or less, marks the centenary of the opening of London’s first Chinese restaurant, says an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph.
It was that summer of 1908 that Chung Koon, formerly a ship's chef on the Red Funnel Line, opened Maxim's in Soho, which – the article states – was the first mainstream Chinese restaurant in Britain. The food was Cantonese and the most popular dish was pork in a sweet and sour sauce called “jarjow”.
The article goes on to summarise major developments since, including, in 1958, the opening of the Lotus House in Bayswater – a restaurant so popular that customers who couldn't get a table asked for food to take away. Thus “it became the first take-away in Britain” (not including chippies, presumably) .
Also in 1958, Billy Butlin introduced chop suey and chips in his holiday camps, turning what had been an exotic food into an English high street staple.
Assuming the article’s chronology is correct, the first Chinese restaurant arrived in the UK almost exactly half as long ago as the first Indian. The Hindoostani Coffee House – which served no coffee – opened in Marylebone in 1809 or 1810.