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  • Writer's pictureHarjot Sidhu

A CONVERSATION ABOUT DESI PUBS, BRITISH-INDIAN PUBS, FOOD & CULTURE, WITH DAVID JESUDASON

Updated: Feb 27

The below is a short piece intended to accompany a longer audio conversation 


LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION VIA LINKS BELOW (OR, SEARCH FOR 'LONDON WRITING GUY' WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS )





In the opening of my piece about Codeswitching, I spoke about my struggle to find belonging or feel accepted in a British pub. At one point in his life, my guest for this conversation shared that same struggle. Today, although we’re not in a post-racism world, David Jesudason is hoping to highlight the changing landscape. Desi pubs are here to stay and, as David says, are an “insulation from the harshness of the world..” Not just for South Asians but for everyone. In this conversation, I speak to David about his book Desi Pubs – A guide to British-Indian Pubs, Food & Culture. We discuss why he set out putting it together, the history of these pubs, their roots in Britain’s racist history, where we are now and why they’re still important today.


Desi Pubs - A guide to British-Indian pubs, food & culture

Desi Pubs tells the stories behind the walls of a very specific space. The desi space. Some of you may ask what a desi pub is? Go back to the 1950s & ‘60s and a time when the black and South Asian community were rejected by Britain (even though they were invited over). Signs that read “NO IRISH. NO BLACKS. NO DOGS” were clear for all to see outside of these establishments. Even Malcolm X was famously refused a beer at The Blue Gates, in Smethwick. The necessity for these spaces wasn’t just a desire. It was a requirement.



Meg Khanna - The Gladstone Arms, Borough, London.

Today, these spaces are all-inclusive. Men, women and children, from all backgrounds, are welcome. The ‘landlady’ is starting to become uncommon, too. Desi Pubs is a unique book, but one that makes complete sense. It’s a wonder that something like this has never been done before. It may just seem like a book about pubs and food, but it’s so much more. It’s a documentation of the racist history, rejection and resistance that these pubs have risen from. It’s a celebration of the spirit that has gone into the setup of these pubs, the richness of what they offer and the people behind those doors. David and I discuss all of this and much, much, more in our conversation, which is available via the link above or below.


Shiba Tiwari - Aroma Lounge, Wembley, London.

Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a pub by its outer walls. When you walk through the doors of any pub, ask yourself about the history of where you stand. The stories that a landlord, or landlady, might be able to tell you will make you lean in, slightly turn your head to one side and listen carefully. They will fill you with wonder and astonishment all the same and strengthen your connection with that pub, separate to the connection to the awesome sights of sizzling platters being brought to tables. When you’re in a desi pub, all of the above will only multiply tenfold! And you’ll have some of the best cuisine and most amazing people around you to pair with it!


So, the next time you walk through the doors of a pub, not just a desi pub but any pub, just remember it will have a story. You’ve only got to ask the publican what that story is.


LISTEN ON SPOTIFY HERE>

PODCAST HUB (Download on your favoured platform) HERE>

FOLLOW DAVID JESUDASON ON INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/daviddesipubs 

FOLLOW DAVID ON TWITTER: www.twitter.com/davidjesudason 


Desi Pubs - A guide to British-Indian pubs, food & culture.

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