Posted on Wednesday, 22nd March 2017
Cinnamon Kitchen is an upmarket Indian fusion restaurant in the Liverpool Street area. Bearing the word “Cinnamon” in its name, it is part of the Cinnamon Collection, a group of Indian restaurants run by Vivek Singh, restauranteur, and a celebrity chef regular on a number of television cookery shows such as BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Vivek first made his name with his flagship restaurant Cinnamon Club by championing a brand of modern, innovative Indian cooking. His contemporary approach has further translated into his other restaurants including Cinnamon Soho and Cinnamon Bazaar.
As we walked into Cinnamon Kitchen, we were immediately seduced by both the aroma of the tantalising smells wafting through the restaurant, as well as by the excited murmur of happily munching clients. The interior is both smart and trendy, and gave both a happening vibe with a balanced sense of a cozy intimacy.
To begin our meal we were offered some miniature spiced potato fritters on a curly bamboo stick as the complimentary amuse-bouche from the chef. Usually, such throw-ins are an opportunity to showcase the chef’s best skills or new, novel ideas, to dazzle and intrigue customers into coming to try more next time. This one was a little bland and unassuming and tasted like a deep-fried ball made of faintly curried mashed potatoes.
Next we tried a variety of chutneys with naan. Of the three chutneys that arrived, the most memorable was the tomato one. With just the right level of hotness, it treated tomato as what it technically is: a fruit, which is that it was intensely rich with flavour and naturally sweet. The naan that accompanied the chutneys was pleasantly spliced with fennel seeds.
Now for the actual starters. In a nod to Indian street food, we tried the platter of Bombay street food delicacies (£7.50) which consisted of dabeli (curried potato mash with some spicy relish in a mini burger bun), steamed chickpea cake and papdi chaat. We liked the various combinations of flavours and contrasting textures that these 3 morsels had to offer. Here again we see Vivek trying to bring a modernised take on Indian street food to London diners, typical of his Cinnamon Bazaar branch.
The most unsuccessful dish of the evening was the organic cured salmon with green pea wasabi “jhalmuri” (£9). It looked and tasted like created in a flurry of experimental frenzy, pursuing the sheer novelty, rather than any harmony of flavours and textures. Picture it for yourself: cured salmon on a bed of baby leaves thickly covered with sweet puffed rice jazzed up, of all things, with slightly-too-strong wasabi.
For the mains we chose three. The king prawn in coconut and cardamom malai curry (£25) turned out to be three medium-sized prawns swimming in a very mild korma-like sauce and garnished with faintly garlicky sautéed spinach. The sauce was tasty enough, but didn’t quite have the heat nor that level of intricate spicing. We also felt the dish could have been more generous with regards to the number of prawns. But the true highlight of this dish (and of the evening) was the accompanying ghee rice as this was one of the most strikingly enjoyable things that we ate all night: moist and fluffy, with a rich buttery flavour. It was outstanding and we would have happily eaten bowls and bowls of it on its own.
The char-grilled fillet of lamb (£24) was superb, the obviously top quality meat looked like a lush cookbook picture. The Madras coconut sauce, however, was neither here, nor there: not punchy enough for a curry, and again could have done with more heat and intricacy.
The tandoori spice red deer with pickled vegetable and yoghurt sauce (£32) was cooked to perfection, intensely pink inside, deliciously caramelised on the outside. As the meat was so good, it really didn’t need the yoghurt sauce.
The cheese platter (£9.50) came with three British cheeses and a peshawari naan (stuffed with apricot paste). All the cheeses were pleasant, but it was the pesawari naan which stood out. The naan was warm, delicate and fluffy, and beautifully elevated by the delicate sweetness of the apricots.
Our final dessert was the exquisitely flavourful saffron-poached pear (£6.50) which proved to be a glorious final note for the dinner. Perfectly cooked, it went hand in hand with the silky, enticingly scented coconut kheer (pudding) and the delightfully refreshing melon sorbet, as if they were heaven-made handmaidens. This really was Indian cooking at its best.
It will by no means do Cinnamon Kitchen justice to judge it as a curry-house. It is anything but, positioning itself as a modern contemporary Indian restaurant marrying Indian concepts with Westernised techniques. With the curry dishes, these were presented as a protein accompanied by a mild curry sauce with rice on the side.
However, the point about curry is that it is a stew, not a sauce. To achieve their full potential, the spices need to fuse with the rest of the ingredients not on the plate right before serving, but in the pot, preferably the night before.
So it’s difficult to truly classify Cinnamon Kitchen as being Indian or even fusion Indian. Some of the combinations didn’t quite gel together in perfect harmony. Yet it was still tasty. And besides, Cinnamon Kitchen appeared to be a very popular venue. Booking a table was very hard to make and the restaurant was, indeed, packed to the rafters with happy-looking punters merrily tucking into Vivek Singh’s creations.
Note: This blog post written by Arturo from Nifty Noshing and myself.
1) Upmarket feel.
2) Great service
3) The Ghee rice
4) The Poached pear
1) Not quite Indian fusion, but more like a Westernised take on Indian food.
2) The salmon dish
Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 4/5
Prices: About £45 to £55 a head for three courses, excluding drinks and service.