"The menu is astonishing."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
A former business colleague had selected this restaurant for one of our quarterly catch-up suppers and was surprised that – despite hearing so many good things about it – I hadn’t been before. The entrance is a discrete doorway on Great Smith Street – tucked between traditional office buildings. You’d have to be looking for it to see it.
Inside the place is a wonder – it’s a converted library. On the ground floor there are many dark wood screens with glass panels allowing you to peep beyond. There are tables and chairs in two large rooms. But up above there is an open gallery which still contains shelves and shelves of books. There are nods towards the Asian influence with discrete carved elephants and petals in the tea light holders. Utterly professional yet warm and peaceful.
And the place was completely packed. By day it is apparently frequented by Westminster’s politicians and senior civil servants, but last night it was a mixture of couples on an evening out, small groups of people, some out-of-towners and one or two business folk. But everyone was relaxed and chatting.
The menu is astonishing. Combinations of Indian spices and flavours with traditionally English ingredients. Some unusual and exciting combinations. We skipped the starters and focused on the main courses.
We put ourselves in the hands of the Sommelier to choose a glass of wine for us each. He was expert, confident and gave us a few choices but happily accepted the responsibility of choosing for us.
Single glasses of wine range from £5.50 to £9.60 with a couple a little more expensive. The wine list is extensive and you would need considerable time to work your way through. You should not be reluctant to seek help from that marvellous Sommelier.
While we waited we were presented with a tiny ball of potato and spice perfection positioned in a swirl of mint yoghurt. Just enough heat to make you notice – but not overpowering for those who dislike “hot” food.
My “Tandoori wild Spencer Gulf king prawns with malai curry sauce and dried shrimp rice” (£28.00) was marvellous. A perfect roundel of shrimp pink rice that was dry but a good texture. The four fat prawns were chargrilled and you could taste the spices in which they must have marinated. The curry sauce was creamy and light – there were what I think were caraway seeds and hints of citrus in there. There was some spinach and other vegetable stalks on the side.
But my companion’s “Char-grilled Scottish mallard breast with pearl barley kedgeree, curry of legs” (£27.00) was the superior choice. The duck breast was a deep red colour, firm to the bite and with a memorable mildly spiced flavour. The pearl barley kedgeree had a creamy, rich texture. I could have eaten that alone and been happy.
The garlic naan (£3.00) we shared was good – but I wasn’t sure whether it was OK for me to use it to mop up the sauces as I would in other Indian eating establishments and in Pakistan. I did anyway.
Whilst we hadn’t intended to have desserts, after the excellent main courses we couldn’t resist.
Food envy set in big time when my companion’s “Original Beans milk chocolate and pecan nut pudding, bitter chocolate mousse and thandai ice cream” (£9.00) arrived. Each small taste I took was a sensation. That dessert was amongst the best I have ever tasted.
My “Spiced carrot cake with ginger ice cream” (£8.00) was beautifully presented on a slate – with a generous portion of cake which initially seemed a little drier than anticipated – but then the complex layers of spice flavours unfolded on my tongue. There was a pistachio stick bridging the marvellous ginger ice cream and a small rosette of cream.
Petits fours were presented with our coffee and peppermint tea. We had tarried in this restaurant for three hours. The staff were incredibly polite, helpful, genuinely pleased that we enjoyed our food and there was not a hint that our long stay was an issue.
My companion remarked that she had purchased one of the many cook books by the chef (Vivek Singh – a regular on TV cooking shows) for her daughter and whilst the recipes took a lot of time, the results were incredible.
On our way down to the toilets in the basement (well worth a visit!), we peeked into a dark bar which had Bollywood films playing on two large screens. An intriguing space.
As I was leaving, I noticed a sign on the reception desk that indicated that the restaurant in included in the Top 100 “Foody” restaurants. It’s very well deserved.
KimT reviewed The Cinnamon Club on Mon 10 Nov 2014