CINNAMON KITCHEN: FLOCKLESS IN THE CITY
Why is the design of new wave of Indian restaurants so hard-edged ? Is there really no way back for flock ? And why do some gaffs have ceilings that look like they haven’t been finished. Just some of my random musing as I sat in the hangar-like space of the Cinnamon Kitchen, the City offshoot of Cinnamon Club in Westminster. It’s an awkward space where even when full and buzzing you’d still not feel completely comfortable in. The service too was still finding its feet, being a bit overenthusiastic about the upselling and not completely clued up about Indian food. Well, they were French. Everyone was friendly enough though (as they should be to somebody looking to spend money).
Not that the food wasn’t good. Overseen by exec chef Vivek Singh it was mostly tasty gear, prepared with a light touch. Only problem was it was all just a bit polite and didn’t have that sense of generosity that you’d want or expect with Subcontinental food. There is the fundamental problem underlying much of this type of modern Indian cookery. Trying to mould it into a sort of European style makes it feels forced and the results never seem quite right. Well, they don’t to me, but then again I am half Bengali and consequently have an opinion on everything.
Take the Tandoori Chicken. It was nicely cooked: moist, tasty and accompanied by what came across like an Indian version of Ensalada Rusa. But your £7.50 gets you just three small mouthfuls. Fine by me if the dish were complex and multi-layered or part of a tasting menu but as a starter ?
The Lamb appetiser brought a bit more interest to the meal. There was a fiery Sheekh Kebab – well, about a third of one – a nice little Shami Kebab and a tasty little Yoghurt cake. But again it was little more than a few minutes distraction. Fat Chilli with spiced Paneer was the most disappointing dish. The filling was too homogenised in taste but the accompanying spiced Labneh was really rather good.
A main course of seared Haddock with Devon Crab was more European in style. The fish was excellent and cooked accurately. It lay on good basmati rice in a light sauce. Perfectly acceptable if tending a little to blandness. Some more assertive spicing might have been an improvement.
An accompanying Dhal also suffered from reticent spicing but the breads were pretty good although I’d love to see what sort of markup there is on three small halves of Naan which priced at a fiver,
Luckily, the restaurant makes fresh ice cream every day so I didn’t have to find out what an Indian Banana Tart Tatin is. The ice creams weren’t bad either although the Saffron left me with a taste of that spice for some time after. Cinnamon was the best, naturally.
Despite wanting a more leisurely dining experience I was in and out in just over an hour. I suspect though that this is will suit the Investment Bankers, who will probably make up the majority of the clientele, and allow them to have the Set Menu Lunch (which at £15 for 2 courses and £18 for 3 seems to be the better deal) and still get them back at their desks quicker than you can say “Statutory Redundancy Package”. Which is some sort of bonus in these torrid times even if they aren’t getting a real one.