Sake Dean Mahomed was an entrepreneur who made a name for himself by building cultural connections between India and England. A soldier in the East India Company’s Bengal Regiment, he had first settled in Ireland in 1784, in the service of captain Baker with whom he worked for many years. He was the first Indian author to publish a book in English and to open an Indian restaurant in England—ushering in what would become one of Great Britain’s most popular cuisines.
Mahomed went on to find success as the “The Shampooing Surgeon of Brighton,” opening a spa in the British seaside town that attracted the rich and royal.
In 1810, he established the Hindoostanee Coffee House at 34 George Street, London, Britain’s first Indian restaurant run by an Asian. However, this venture failed within two years. The Epicure’s Almanack—an early London restaurant guide—hailed it as a place for nobility to enjoy hookah and Indian dishes of the highest perfection. Nonetheless, Mahomed was forced to close his luxurious restaurant in 1812 and sought to reinvent himself.
Moving his family to the beachside town of Brighton, he opened a spa named Mahomed’s Baths offering luxurious herbal steam baths. His speciality was a combination of a steam bath and an Indian therapeutic massage—a treatment he named “shampooing” inspired by the Hindi word champissage meaning “a head massage.” He also published a book about the therapeutic benefits of the treatment with testimonials from his patients. In 1822, King George IV appointed Mahomed as his personal ‘shampooing surgeon’, which greatly improved his business.
A portrait of Mahomed hangs in the Brighton Museum, commemorating this man who helped merge the cultures of his two homelands.
Mahomed died in 1851 at 32 Grand Parade, Brighton. He was buried in a grave at St Nicholas’ Church, Brighton, in which his son Frederick was later interred.