Enjoy a sprinkling of cinnamon in London
10:49 21 November 2012
Londoner Kavey is a food blogger who loves to eat well. On her blog Kavey Eats she shares delicious recipes, reviews of cookery books, restaurants and products, feedback on food festivals and events and stories about her travels. She also helps to run her mum’s Indian cookery website, Mamta’s Kitchen.
Long gone are the days when going out for an Indian meal was synonymous with a drunken night at the neighbourhood curry house.
Those kind of meals are still available and popular, but over the last decade, London has experienced a surge of interest in more authentic Indian food. New restaurants are offering everything from buzzing Bombay cafes to street-food style roti wraps to dhaba (canteen) food to Indian fine dining.
Building on the success of Cinnamon Club in Westminster, owner Iqbal Wahhab and executive chef Vivek Singh have opened Cinnamon Kitchen near Liverpool Street and Cinnamon Soho near Regent Street.
Of the three, the original Cinnamon Club is by far the most formal and expensive. Housed in a grand Victorian building, it boasts wood-panelled walls and original parquet flooring and is popular with locally based lawyers, politicians and expense-account business suits. Some of the dishes we tried were fabulous, though dessert was a letdown, as were some of the breads. Starters of Chargrilled Welsh lamb fillet with nutmeg and Tandoori breast of Anjou pigeon with chickpea and tamarind were spot on, as was a main of Roast Cumbrian wild red deer saddle; I was less impressed by an expensive but underwhelming wagyu rump steak. With the exception of the wagyu, meat was superbly sourced and cooked - tender, moist and full of flavour and accompanied by deftly cooked sides and sauces.
Cinnamon Soho is a far more informal space, though during our Sunday visit, it was lacking in customers and therefore in atmosphere. Service was enthusiastic but a little sloppy. But the great value Sunday brunch menu offered some appealing choices, and the cooking was great. Stand outs from the starters included a Tandoori chicken and chilli Delhi sandwich, the Grilled fat chilli with paneer and the Coorgi pork stir fry; from the mains, Hot-sweet shrimp 'kichri' and the Hyderabadi style Cumbrian mountain lamb biryani. Flavours were robust, ingredients were decent and our meal felt generous and indulgent, especially at the low price point.
Cinnamon Kitchen sits somewhere between the other two; of the three restaurants I warmed most to its modern internal dining room and external patio dining area, flooded with light but protected by a glass roof high above. I visited to try a special all-vegetarian menu, and despite being a real meat-lover, found I didn't miss meat at all, so skilful was head chef Abdul Yaseen at making his ingredients shine. A rasam smoked tomato and morel soup was an exercise in layering flavours and textures, with slices of morel giving substance to a thin, fragrant and rich soup - everything perfectly balanced. My main course Stir fried baby aubergine, cauliflower stuffed potatoes, curried petit pois and slow cooked onion gravy was beautifully plated, using a hollowed out potato as an edible bowl in which to serve the cauliflower stir fry. The flavours of each element were wonderfully authentic and familiar to those of us who've grown up eating Indian home cooking.
Other Indian restaurants I've enjoyed are Delhi Grill, offering dhaba-style cooking in Islington; Dishoom near Leicester Square, styled on a traditional Bombay Café; Les Porte des Indes near Marble Arch, offering dishes inspired by the cuisine of Pondicherry; monthly regional menus at Namaaste Kitchen in Camden; and Quilon in Westminster, which specialises in food from the South-western states of the Malabar Coast.