Saturday, May 29, 2010

Not Your Mother's Curry: The Cinnamon Club

Walk past 30 Great Smith Street and you'd almost miss it - the building itself is inconspicuous.  No sign hangs outside announcing its presence; in fact, there is no signage of any sort that would suggest that this is indeed the home of The Cinnamon Club, formerly the Old Westminster Library.  As you timidly approach the stairs to the restaurant, the only assurance you have that you're in the right place is the smiling hostess waiting to take your name and coats.

Having had a great meal with Tom, Cristy and Alison at The Cinnamon Club a couple months ago, I decided to book a table for my parents' visit as well.  Though this restaurant seems more appropriate for business lunches and dinners rather than romantic meals out, the chic ambiance (created by the skylights and shelves of books that still remain on the top floor) create a terrific dining experience.

If you're looking for traditional Indian cuisine, The Cinnamon Club will be too "fusion" for you - however, the flavors never fail to excite (and at times, perplex), which is precisely why it's made it on my list of favorite restaurants to dine at in London.

As I booked through Toptable, we ordered from the set menu (currently priced at £19 for two courses, £22 for three) and were served a Cinnamon Bellini upon arrival, which was delightfully spicy.

To start, I ordered the paneer with yogurt and pomegranate sauce.  Now, when I mentioned "exciting" and "perplexing" flavors above, the presence of pomegranate seeds in the yogurt sauce is a prime example: eaten with the spicy paneer (which had the consistency of firm tofu), the sudden bursts of sweetness and sourness confused my palate, but not necessarily in a bad way.

I wish I had taken a photo of my mom's main course because it certainly did not look as appetizing as mine.  To put it bluntly, she ordered the "venison kebab", not knowing that "kebab" in this country refers to a kofta-style kebab, rather than chunks of meat on a skewer and, well, when her "kebabs" arrived on a bed of unidentifiable gloop, it resembled what could only be described as two stages of that thing your dog does when you take it out for a walk.  While delicious, I couldn't help but gag as the plate was so visually unappealing.  It was so unfortunate for her, as our dishes were delicious: mine (pictured above) was mackerel served with a coriander-infused sauce.

Dessert was an absolutely sublime warm dark chocolate cake with toffee sauce, topped with caramelized bananas and ginger-infused ice cream.  We finished with espresso and a selection of sweets.

A word must be said about the service at The Cinnamon Club, as it's impeccable.  The staff is attentive without being intrusive (which seems to be a difficult balance to strike for many restaurants) and upon learning about my mom's dissatisfaction with her dish (which I politely expressed, despite her protestations), they charged us only for two courses rather than three although she had (mostly) finished the meal (with my dad's help), which was a very kind gesture, in my opinion. 

So if you're in the neighborhood, or have an excuse to dine out, I'd swing by The Cinnamon Club.  Don't bring your meeting notes - just your appetite.

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