The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
I was not a big fan of Indian food before I came to live in the UK. Actually ‘fan’ is the wrong word, as I didn’t really know much about Indian cuisine. There are not many Indian restaurants in Hong Kong, and most of them serve their own interpretation of curry. I have almost given up, after getting bland dishes with some sort of meat swimming in a yellow-orange sauce, on several occasions. Saying that, I would still love to try out the Michelin guide recommended restaurant – ‘Hin Ho’, on my next trip to Hong Kong.
After coming to the UK, I was overwhelmed by how much British people love eating Indian food. There must be at least 5 Indian restaurants on most London high streets (closer to 10 on our local high street). Several upmarket Indian restaurants have emerged over the past few years. They offer Indian influenced cuisine, combining seasonal British ingredients with Indian spices. The Cinnamon Club, Benares and Tamarind have all been very successful in this field.
To celebrate the Taste Of London festival, The Cinnamon Club introduced a special offer on their tasting menu – 8 courses for £50, for 2 weeks after the event. To me, it was too good to miss :)
Tucked away in a back street of Westminster, situated in the fabulously refurbished old Westminster library, The Cinnamon Club provides an open spaced, semi-formal environment to dine in. We arrived quite early for dinner which was an advantage because we could still enjoy the peace and formal atmosphere before the dining room filled up with couples, business people, and office parties – which then turned the dinning room into this fun and buzzing ‘food court‘– we quite liked that as well.
Now on to the food…
1st course - Carpaccio of cured salmon, tandoori salmon and green pea relish
A very refreshing starter. The saltiness of the cured salmon was spot on, topped with green roe which gave a bit of crunch to it. Crispy charred skin Tandoori salmon, soft and slightly pink in the middle. Two pieces of salmon, two different flavours and textures.
2nd course - Grilled Scottish king scallop with cauliflower puree
It was a nice surprise when we saw that the scallop came with spicy squid on top. This ordinary dish was immediately transformed into something much more interesting and colourful. Both scallop and squid were perfectly cooked, not at all chewy. Although the spiciness of the squid slightly overpowered the scallop.
3rd course - Steamed chickpea cake
I had never had a cake in the middle of the meal before! This little sponge cake was very light but moist. The red savoury chutney on top gave a real kick to the whole dish, which brought it nicely together.
4th course - Tandoori breast of Anjou squab pigeon
When I looked at the menu, I expected this dish to be the best. While the pigeon was good quality, tender, and cooked well, I thought that the mango sauce didn't really go with the pigeon, or the crispy rice cake.
5th course - Lime and mint sorbet
What a good idea to clean your palette using a sorbet between courses. It was almost like an iced Mojito.
6th course - Baked wild African prawn with 'kadhai' spices
I almost cheered when I saw the dish, I would never expect to see such a big prawn served in a tasting menu. Not only was it cooked to perfection, it was a treat for the eyes as well. Such a beautiful dish. The sauce played an important part, the sourness together with the juicy spiced meat were heavenly together.
7th course - Saddle of 'Oisin' red deer with sesame tamarind sauce
Probably the best dish of the menu (although I still think the prawn had the wow factor). Tender, cooked medium rare, with a deliciously tangy sauce. You could still taste the flavour of the meat through all the spices.
Pre-dessert - Coconut parfait with mango and blackcurrant coulis
It looked like a hard ice cream or sorbet, but when I stuck the spoon in, it was crumbly almost like coconut 'sand'.
8th course - Saffron poached pear with lemon and pistachio mousse
This dish was an Indian take-on a popular western dessert. The saffron added a bright orange colour and added its special aroma to the pear.
Based on the food, I would say that The Cinnamon club is right up there with the other high end Indian restaurants in London. The service was a bit slow at times, but all requests were handled professionally. The meal would have been very expensive without the special offer, although not many restaurants can boast such a high level of creativity, and unique combinations of flavours.