Set in an historic Grade II listed former library, The Cinnamon Club brings Indian fine dining to the heart of Westminster. With its reputation of being one of the most exclusive and high-quality Indian restaurants in London, I’d been eager to visit for some time and Diwali 2014 offered our family the perfect excuse to go.
With its colonial ambience, the restaurant resembles something of a gentleman’s club. The dining space opens into a vast room with high ceilings, a book-lined gallery, parquet flooring, brown-leather panelling and crisp napery. Rather than being an intimate space – not helped by the dull lighting and (overly) large tables – it’s grander in style. Its grandeur is also reflected in the service, with waiters dressed in smart black tie.
Whilst the décor and service are traditionally formal, the food is highly contemporary. Executive chef Vivek Singh has developed an evolving menu that is creative and innovative. Whilst all dishes have the Indian subcontinent as their origins , they’re given a modern European twist. And tonight an array of menus were on offer. Although it was Diwali, we chose not to dine on the specific Diwali menu (£48 per person) but to go for the option of three courses and a red rose cocktail for £26 per head. This proved to be extremely good value, especially considering the Cinnamon Club’s Michelin starred kitchen.
A complementary appetiser of a Potato Fritter served with a tomato mustard chutney and a herb leaf garnish was a welcome spicy introduction to the food ahead. The fritter had a deliciously crispy coating and complemented the melt-in-the-mouth interior well. The depth of its spicing did not need further complication by addition of the mustard accompaniment which I found overly pungent.
Our starters of crispy Zucchini Flower with royal cumin and tamarind glazed vegetables, and a Lentil Pancake served with potato sambhal and red and green chutneys were delicately flavoured. The courgette flower reflects exactly what the kitchen so excels in – blending traditional Indian cooking techniques with European design templates.
The mains continued to impress. Again, we shared a selection including the Baked Romano Pepper filled with spiced Jerusalem couscous and yellow lentils, the Tandoori Portobello Mushroom, stir-fired baby morels and layered paratha, and the Aubergine Steak. A side of Garlic Naan complemented the curried aubergine well. For my mum, the ultimate critique of Indian cooking being such a mistress of spices herself, the aubergine had too much coriander-cumin spicing.
For desert we enjoyed a selection of Sorbets (mango and chilli, carrot and ginger, and apple), Ice Creams (cinnamon, saffron and vanilla), as well as the Spiced Coconut Mousse with guava soup, and Gulab Jambu with green apple shirkhand (!)
The bill also arrived with a surprising addition: a complimentary “happy birthday” Lemon Tart served with bergamot sorbet and iced lemon mousse! Happy to play along, we reassured the waiters that it was my sister’s birthday. The tartness of the lemon flavour provided a refreshing postlude to the meal.
The restaurant’s professionalism makes it an ideal venue for a work/client lunch or dinner. On our visit, it seemed full of suave power brokers and Westminster politicians enjoying a top-notch menu of rustic yet regal Indian dishes given an updated twist. I’m certainly keen on returning for a breakfast here, for what would undoubtedly be the ultimate breakfast of champions.
The Cinnamon Club, The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BU