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The Cinnamon Club - in the shadow of Westminster Abbey

Louise Elgin reports on its continuing success

The Cinnamon Club, The Old Westminster Library, Great Smith Street London SW1 Tel: 020 7222-2555

Over the past few years London has seen the emergence of a new breed of Indian restaurant, aiming to combine the best of sub-continental cuisine with the qualities of European restaurant traditions. The Cinnamon Club is very much leading the way by creating a modern environment within a beautiful building that once was a library. In fact, the entrance is so discreet that it would be very easy to walk past the door several times before locating it; as, indeed, we did. However, on entering I realised that there was a hive of activity taking place inside and at eight o'clock at night on a Tuesday evening there was barely an empty table.

We made our way across the large dining room, which was alive with atmosphere and bustle, although a little on the noisy side for my liking. This was probably due to the room's high ceiling making everything rather echoey. This factor combined with the oversized tables for two, resulted in it being rather difficult for us to chat comfortably without raising our voices to be heard; so, possibly, not the best venue for a romantic dinner a deux. The staff are from France, where waiting at table is a serious profession and great care and precision is taken in serving the customer.

The menu, which changes daily, was a real treat - a mix of east meets west, a coming together of all that's good about both cultures. There were ten starters all ranging around the £7.00-£9.00 mark. They included a tempting sounding stir fry of king prawns with coconut and chilli at £10.00 and a plate of green asparagus with aubergine crush and spiced yoghurt at £7.50. I began with three pork dumplings that came served with a sauce with a very chilli kick that was perhaps a little on the spicy side for me, but I was in an Indian restaurant after all…what did I expect! My guest being vegetarian began with Bombay spiced vegetables with cumin and 'pao' at £6.50. He said it was a combination of finely cut and puree vegetables that were highly spiced and served with a brioche style Indian bread. I don't think he was totally enthralled with his choice but he seemed to enjoy it nevertheless.

There are plenty of wines at all prices, and whilst there is the understandable argument that wine does not really go with curry, we were drinking a rather pricey bottle of a very special and unusual Italian wine. It's called Flors di Vies from top Friuli producer Vie di Romans. It's an amazing blend of  Malvasia, Riesling, Tocai and Chardonnay grapes. It turned out to be a very good choice, being complex in texture, full bodied with a strongly aromatic  vanilla nose and a rich colour, with smoky oakey overtones all of which added up to the perfect partner for the subtly spiced cuisine.  Sommelier Laurent Chaniac clearly enjoys a more than usually challenging job matching wines with spicy foods and he is a great help in suggesting the right combination.

For the main course, I had a wonderful goat curry, £21.00; something I normally associate with the Caribbean, and not a dish I had never seen on an Indian restaurant menu before. It was very tender, rich and full of superb flavours and came served with nutty basmati rice and nan bread. My guest chose the crisp potato paratha with roasted aubergine, paneer, a cheese, and baby corn stir-fry, £11.00. The parathas were cunningly shaped rather like vol au vent cases, each topped with one of the above fillings, the aubergine being his favourite.

We had some very good side dishes to accompany all this, including a very delicate nan bread, green lentils and Rajasthani sangri beans which my guest (who hails from the Indian sub continent) said he had never eaten before and thought a welcome addition. Other choices from the selection of twelve included a Tandoori rack of 'Oisin' red deer with pickling spices at £31.00 and a smoked rack of lamb with corn and coriander sauce at £22.00. The lady on a nearby table commented that it was a "fantastic" dish.

For pudding my guest had some kulfi, ( Indian ice cream), served with a rather ordinary raspberry coulis,     I had a sumptuous creamy concoction of yoghurt and summer fruits for £7.00, which, had I not been totally full, would have had me greedily asking for seconds.  

The Cinnamon Club can be rather expensive. Our bill for two came in at £173.00. However, that did include our £46.00 bottle of wine, a couple of gin and tonics, a glass of dessert wine and several bottles of water. It is definitely worth trying and with a little careful planning, I think the bill could be kept to something more acceptable to the wallet. Having said that, the place is certainly not short of customers queuing up to try the kitchen mastery of Vivek Singh - former chef of Indian's legendary Hotel Rajuilas. If your view of the traditional Indian restaurant is curried out and your jaded palate is crying out for something new, I'm sure a visit here would revitalise your taste buds and give you an evening to relish.

Louise Elgin. July 2004. 

How the Cinnamon Club began life. Read Clifford Mould's account of its early days.

The Cinnamon Club
Old Westminster Library
Great Smith Street
Westminster SW1
Tel: 0207 222 2555
www.cinnamonclub.com

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010


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