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Restaurant Review: The Cinnamon Kitchen

December 8, 2011

Cinnamon Bellini

When I was at the Tweet, Meet & Eat Party at The Cinnamon Kitchen the other week, head chef Abdul Yaseen talked to me about his Canape Tasting Menu and I decided that I just had to go back soon to try it out. My good friend Annie agreed to join me and even invited me to her place for the night so I didn’t have to worry about getting back across London after – what I anticipated would be – a great meal.

Great meal? I was on a little adrenaline high of joy as I left The Cinnamon Kitchen last night, for the meal was one of the most exciting and wonderful I’ve ever had. I’ve been to The Cinnamon Club a few times and consider it a favourite place but, apart from the Tweet Party when some canapes were served, I’d never before sat down to a meal at the Kitchen. When you say in UK, I’m going out for an Indian meal, it often conjures up something far removed from haute cuisine and the first time I went to The Cinnamon Club, I had no conception of what I was about to sample, despite the enthusiastic description of what was in store by the friend who took me there. I was, at it turned out, completely bowled over.

The Cinnamon Club opened ten years ago; three years ago head chef Abdul Yaseen moved across London from Westminster to Aldgate with the opening of The Cinnamon Kitchen. And I’m bowled over again. Abdul’s cooking is awesome. This is cooking of the highest quality and all those Indian spices and methods of cooking are brought together to provide a stunningly wonderful experience for the senses – especially the taste, with complex and exciting flavours that unfold delightfully in your mouth. Each little canape in this special menu has to be eaten on its own; experienced on its own, because this is definitely not cooking most people experience every day. In fact, my first thoughts as I began eating, were that I hadn’t been so excited by a collection of wonderful small dishes since eating at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze a year ago.

Now, I know I’m probably sounding a bit over excited here, but I promise you this is something special.

Starting a Cinnamon Club or Kitchen meal for me always means ordering a Cinnamon Bellini. This is a glorious mix of Assam tea, Goldslager, cinnamon liqueur, a few drops of cinnamon syrup and a few cinnamon sticks, all brewed together for a while – then topped up with prosecco.

The canape menu had been ordered in advance, and it wasn’t long before the first of four selections made its way to us: grilled organic salmon, aubergine crush; crab and cod cake, green pea raita shot, goan style stir fried red shrimps. I’m hard pushed to say which I liked best, but perhaps the crab and cod cake.

This was followed by grilled aubergine, peanut crumble; yoghurt kebab and fruit chaat, sweet corn soup, masala corn kebab. At this point your Single Gourmet Traveller has to admit that she was so enjoying it all and discussing the wonderful flavours with Annie, that I forgot to take a photo until well into the second plate – and it wasn’t good enough to do justice to what I ate. I’m going to have to remember to keep my food bloggers hat on through all the meal in future. But on to the next delicious plate. Now, I have to say that when seeing the first two, I thought, mmm, this is all fabulous but I’m not sure it’s going to fill me up. By the time I’d finished the third plate, I was well and truly full and grateful for a little longer break before the puddings.

Put before us were lamb seekh kebab in roomali bread; spiced grouse cake, masala stir fried game, stuffed tandoor chicken breast and a bowl of vegetable biryani. They were all great, but I particularly liked the stir fried game and the biryani. This is definitely a meal for a long, slow dinner. Savour each mouthful and capture the complex and deep flavours. Sometimes they come in waves: you get a taste, then something more and finally another little burst of flavour. At this point, we also ordered a glass of red wine each and I could see a fresh bottle being opened for us, and the wine was excellent.

The final course was a plate of three puddings: shrikhand cheesecake with tamarind glazed berries; carrot toffee pudding, carrot hulwa; and saffron poached pear with rice pudding. Annie and I looked at the plate before us and agreed that the decision now was what to leave for the last mouthful. This wasn’t a meal I wanted to end (even though I was feeling nicely full by now) and I wanted to save the best till last – the carrot cake had it for me.

Once we’d paid, I sent my best wishes to Abdul to say how much we’d enjoyed it and he came through to talk to us. He has wonderful enthusiasm for what he does and justified pride in what he serves at The Cinnamon Kitchen. It wasn’t a cheap meal – just over £50 a head, including wines and coffee – but it was worth it. And The Cinnamon Kitchen is without doubt worth a special journey. I know I’ll be going back as soon as I can.

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