UK / Europe

Spice trail in the City

Amy Hughes

I must admit, with my base firmly rooted in West London, I rarely trek into the City unless there’s a good reason.  The area around London’s Liverpool Street tube station is a serious hub for the financial worker crowd, so I’m expecting to find a half-filled restaurant when I arrive at Cinnamon Kitchen.  It’s the latest opening by Chef Vivek Singh, and sister restaurant to Cinnamon Club in St. James.  Unlike the formal atmosphere of Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen is relaxed, fun and vibrant.

We struggle a bit to find the restaurant as it’s part of a new complex of buildings, but we manage to find it and, instead of a sleepy Saturday night service, the place is packed with a crowd of all ages – some dressed up, some dressed down.   The neighbouring Anise Lounge is rented out for a private party, but looks like a good place to begin with a drink.

Instead, we select a perfectly balanced Chateauneuf du Pape from a very seductive wine list which includes Barolo’s, Brunello’s, and some very special cellar wines.

The menu is modern Indian and we start with African king prawns and Tandoori chicken.   £15 may seem staggering for a single prawn, but it appears at the table the size of a banana.    This is a dish meant to cause ooh’s and aah’s and yes, size does matter.  Amazingly, the tenderness of the gigantic prawns doesn’t suffer from its grandiosity, which is so often the case.  They’re coated with a light wash of saffron and coconut and almost make a meal.   The African prawns are the dish to order here.  The Tandoori chicken is unlike most; it’s moist and succulent, not overly dried out from the clay oven, though a few more minutes by the coals would make it a perfect dish.

Cinnamon Kitchen exudes the warm and hospitality known to the culture; they can’t stop themselves from heaping food on us, with amuses bouches, naan, and even a middle course of lime with partridge which was lovely, a splash of corn soup and aubergine with peanuts.

In a mix of east and west, we spot red deer on the menu and decide it must be tried.  It doesn’t disappoint, and neither does my stir-fry of prawns (not as big as the African ones, but I cope) with Tanjore spices.  A few side dishes are overly salty. Aubergine crush –  a puree of smoked aubergine – would be wonderful if the salt flavour wasn’t so overpowering, but thankfully the mains were kept away from the salt shaker, so all is well.

Indian restaurants typically, are not known for their desserts.  Rarely do I find myself torn over not two, but several different sweets.  A dark chocolate soufflé even graces the menu.  Instead, we share a saffron-poached pear with a wonderfully crisp, caramelised bottom, edged up against rice pudding on one side, and a dollop of anise ice cream on the other.  If only it was as light in calories as it looks and tastes.  The flavours sing and my guest, who is a real rice pudding fan, swoons over it.    This is a dish worth saving room for.

The lovely little “afters” which so often separate fine dining from not, are part of the regime here at Cinnamon Kitchen.  And there’s not a single After Eight in sight.  A pineapple jelly which surprises by not being overly sweet, tastes like a piece of the real fruit and is a good pairing with the delicate home-made coconut macaroon which looks heavy, but is anything but.

Cinnamon Kitchen is like a trip down a spice trail of old flavours and new, with enough familiarity to make it comfortable, and plenty of surprises along the way.

Cinnamon Kitchen

www.cinnamon-kitchen.com

+44 (0) 20 3281 7621

9 Devonshire Square  

London EC2M 4YL

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