Wednesday, 30 November -0001
Review: Cinnamon Kitchen
East meets West in this sleek curry house from Vivek Singh
Written by Fiona HicksDining in the City during January is a little bit like visiting a holiday resort off-season. All the elements are there for a rollicking good time, but the atmosphere is eerily sedate. Everyone – namely the City boys – is on their best behaviour, many partaking in ‘Dry January’ in an effort to counteract the 11 other boozy months of the year.
It is a credit to Cinnamon Kitchen, the slickest branch of Vivek Singh’s trio of eateries, that it manages to be as vibrant mid-January as it is the rest of the year. Myself and a dutifully teetotal City boy visited on a Thursday night and the place was brimming, with regular explosions of laughter (of the especially raucous kind only found in the City) rising above the hum of conversation.
Singh is known for his smart take on Indian food pioneered in his first restaurant, Cinnamon Club. With Cinnamon Kitchen he aims for a more relaxed atmosphere without skimping on quality. Asking our efficient waiter what he would recommend, he made a show of studying the menu before announcing with great authority: ‘Chicken. And lamb.’
Chicken and lamb it was to be. The tandoori chicken was soft and fragrantly spiced, while the galouti kebab of lamb offered just the right amount of greasiness (there is nothing worse than a dry kebab). We also sampled the paneer which had a slight (and almost sweet) ginger flavour, and grilled so that it was chewy on the outside and wondrously soft in the centre. Served on white plates or heavy slates, with careful splotches of sauces, the cheffy presentation ensures that the dishes are no run-of-the-mill Balti House fare. Our selection of naan breads (plain, buttered and onion) were a tad on the bland side, but this made them a perfect vehicle for the triumvirate of sauces with accompanied them. Wasabi, in particular, is not a flavour you would necessarily associate with Indian cuisine, but went down well with the chewy naan.
Sticking religiously to the Dryathlon rules, we were on the mocktails all night. Far from being an afterthought, these were made with great flair and transported ceremoniously from the adjacent bar, Anise. The Bob Morley – a simple yet scrumptious concoction of soda, lime and mint – delivered almost as much kick as a real Mojito, while the non-alcoholic take on a Pina Colada was a good antidote to the spicier foods. It is the little touches, such as the fresh basil leaf in the Bob Morley, and the petal in the Pina, which aim to create the effect of a dining experience rather than just a meal. It’s a simple ploy, but it works.
I decided to stick with the waiter’s favourite chicken for my main, opting for the murgh korma tandoori chicken. The large breast was succulent, and served in just enough sauce to deliver the comfort food angle we Brits have come to expect of Indian dishes, yet at the same time managing to maintain that air of minimalist cut-above-the-rest. My dining partner’s red-deer was the most British thing we sampled. The meat was a little chewy for my liking, but he raved about it. We also ordered a side dish of smoked aubergine which very nearly stole the show. The vegetable was essentially a tender mush, but suffused with such delectable array of spices and buttery ghee that it tasted wholly decadent.
The pudding menu at Cinnamon Kitchen is where the British influences really come to the fore. I’m fairly certain chocolate mousse isn’t a traditional Indian dish, yet somehow it seemed the perfect way to top off our meal. We weren’t wrong. An incredibly light molten pudding, it was rich, not too sweet, and infused with the tiniest hit of cardamom. Like with the rest of the menu, the blending of East and West was pulled off elegantly.
Rumour has it that Vivek Singh’s own favourite dish is a masala omelette inside a fruit bun, and it is this fusion attitude to food which sets the tone for his restaurants. Cinnamon Kitchen caters to both gastronomic adventurers and those hardworking City types in search of a good curry who, from next month, will no doubt be there in boisterous abundance.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“HEAVEN forbid that we should go back to the days when beauty was under suspicion and plain girls were assumed to have angelic natures.”The Lady. With Prejudice. 28th April 1938