Just about everyone knows their local Indian restaurant’s menu like the back of their hand by now but here is one establishment that has taken Indian cooking to a whole new level leaving the rest in the dust.
A stone’s throw away from the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey the restaurant is based in The Old Westminster Library. Instead of sticking to the traditional Anglo-Indian cuisine, The Cinnamon Club has taken initiative with the help of mastermind Vivek Singh. Most of the ingredients are seasonal and cooked using traditional techniques mixed with European style which makes for one very unique menu.
A word of warning though. As someone who is married to a spice-o-phobe most of the meals I cook at home is of a Western nature but I do grab a good old curry whenever given the opportunity. What I don’t know is whether my tolerance for all things hot and spicy have somewhat decreased over the past few years. Anything is possible.
Luckily and very thoughtfully, the chef has catered for the spice-averted and sensitive palates. A small selection of Western dishes are available, designed by Chef Eric Chavot, which should keep everyone happy in theory.
My guest for the evening was the vibrant Bethany Kehdy from Dirty Kitchen Secrets. Here is what we enjoyed…
Stolichnaya Vanilla with fresh ginger and blackberries topped with fever-tree.
My preference lies with sweet, fruity and fizzy cocktails. This one fulfilled all the requirements but it is not the best I have had.
Complex and clean, cardamom, Gabriel Boudier saffron gin & edible gold leaf
Simply fascinating, almost mesmerising, to watch the gold flakes shimmering in the light as they move around in the glass. Such a shame it tasted like medicine though.
Fruit and fizz, Plymouth Sloe gin, microbrewed ginger beer.
Better than Fool’s Gold, it had a slightly bitter aftertaste and came second to the Delhi Mule for the evening.
A warming combination of cinnamon, cardamom, pomegranate and cranberry.
So pretty but rather disappointing. The cinnamon component was so strong it muddled the rest of the flavours in the cocktail.
Crispy potato and creamy polenta casings filled with tamarind sauce garnished with yogurt, pomegranate seeds and coriander.
What a cute little treat to start with! It is not often that you can appreciate so many different textures in one mouthful. Sweet and spicy with sour hints of the pomegranate seeds. Lovely!
Crab risotto with truffle cappuccino and pan fried king prawn.
It was creamy with firm individual grains and pieces of proper white crab meat. Undeniably the best risotto I have ever eaten; in a restaurant or at home.
Norwegian King Crab and tamarind salad, cured organic salmon with rasam jelly.
To do the dish justice, here is another angle of the plate.
The most expensive starter on the menu priced at £17.50 but boy is it worth it. Not exactly what I had in mind for a salad but what a fun plate of artsy food! Not keen on the rasam jelly but the rest was exquisite and the wasabi caviar is something I haven’t come across before. A little game was invented by finding out which was my favourite combination, e.g. the salmon with the green mango and tomato sauce or the dressed crab with the green relish?
Tandoori breast of Anjou squab pigeon & Hunter’s style rabbit tikka with dill and mustard, hot garlic chutney.
This plate came with compliments from the chef which isn’t on the menu but rather a combination of two dishes. When cooked, rabbit has a habit of having an almost sour, gamey aftertaste but there was no hint of it in this piece of meat. In fact, if we didn’t know any better we would have thought it tasted just like the moist flavourful brown meat of chicken. Pigeon often turns out quite rubbery but this breast was meltingly tender and delectable. The pigeon-filled toastie was sweet and crunchy. What I liked about this dish was that a hot sauce served on the side leaving it up to you to decide how fiery you would like to have it.
Mushrooms and Spinach Stir-Fry
If you feel too guilty to eat just protein and starch there is a wide array of side dishes to choose from. Instead of using the boring white button mushroom variety other types were used and a deep earthy flavour came through clearly. It was on the spicy side.
Aubergine crush with coconut and curry leaves.
Aubergine is just one of those items I can’t resist on a menu. It was mild, deeply satisfying with a tangy edge.
Seared black leg chicken breast with citrus crust, tomato quinoa.
After being wowed by the rabbit, the chicken paled in comparison. None of the citrus crust could be detected and the flesh was a bit dry. The chicken sausages were neither here or there. Piquant and well made they weren’t a necessity on the plate. What saved this dish was the tomato quinoa which was sweet, flavourful and downright moreish.
“Kadhai” style stir-fry of king prawns with green spiced sauce and steamed rice.
Phew, but is this a hot dish. Thank goodness for the green sauce that acted as a cooling agent to make it bearable. I liked the fact that we didn’t have to order starch as an extra side dish and overall it was quite filling.
Blood orange tart with lime and mint sorbet.
Think along the lines of a creamy lemon tart but blood orange is used instead. Creamy, yet light and not sickly sweet and overall very pleasant. After such a big meal the lime and mint sorbet was nothing but welcoming.
Warm chocolate mousse, white chocolate parfait, milk chocolate ice cream.
Except for the thick wafer which had tooth-breaking potential the rest of the chocolaty dessert was impeccable. Chocolate lovers, this one is a must!
We enjoyed a refreshing mint tea after the meal.
This is our sweet Italian waiter who served us the evening and patiently explained to us what exactly we were eating.
8/10: The food is definitely worth the visit but not the cocktails. I also would have appreciated it if the option was given to me as to how hot I would like my food: mild, medium or hot. Alternatively, to be guided towards the milder dishes. Of course, some people have a higher tolerance for all things hot.
8/10: The portions were substantial and the restaurant is gracious enough to include starch with the main meals instead of trying to bleed its customers dry.
9/10: Well-dressed, courteous and helpful.
9/10: Sleek design, in working condition and some goodies for your hands.
9/10: Loved the high ceilings, no music was played but a quiet hum of chattering could be heard. Overall quite relaxed.
9/10: Usually, as a rule of thumb I don’t order meat at a fish restaurant and no fish at a steakhouse. The same applies to different cuisines. The Cinnamon Club is an exception where they execute both Indian and Western cuisines equally well so you really can’t go wrong. Just watch out for the spices!
The Cinnamon Club
The Old Westminster Library
30-32 Great Smith Street
020 7222 2555
P.S. Many thanks to The Cinnamon Club for the complimentary meal on Saturday evening, 6 February January 2010.