Hidden in the impressive shadow of Westminster Abbey, you will find this Grade II listed library turned spice restaurant. The excited hum of conversation once would have been silenced with a firm ssshhhh, but now it’s welcomed, and patrons delight in the fusion of Indian dining, with locally sourced and farmed ingredients. Suffice to say this revamped library is serving up more than knowledge these days.
Endearingly, this 1897 built building has kept some of its old world charm when converted in about 2000. Thus, reclaimed parquet flooring, Indian marble, imported stone from Rajasthan and grand dome skylights are the order of the day.
The venue itself consists of four separate areas: a large restaurant which seats 130, resplendent in Victorian grandeur; an impressive mezzanine level, stacked with books, as it would have been during the century it was London’s first public library; a 60 seat private dining room, with artful panelling shielding the VIP guests from the riff raff; and finally, tucked away downstairs, in the old reference library, a Bollywood-themed cocktail bar.
Due to its prestigious location, The Cinnamon Club is usually booked out by MPs and other dignitaries who wish to nibble after their parliamentary sessions. This is not the place to come for an after pub curry fix. You feel as if you should be dressed up in shirt and tie and screaming order, order!
There is no ambient music playing (which the place could benefit from), but a fair, atmospheric buzz arises from the clientele talking shop, which reverberates off the impressively high domed ceilings. Also, the way the room and mezzanine are designed makes for great people watching.
However, what really brings the suits back night after night is the service. The attentive waiters, sommelier and chef are not shy about sharing their passions for food and wine with the diners.
The menu at The Cinnamon Club can only be described as modern Indian and European. It consists of a mixture of seafood and meat (deer, lamb and buffalo) adorned with fresh spices and sauces. The acclaimed chef, Vivek Singh (who was once in charge of the great Rajvials in Jaipur) feels that all too often, Indian dishes become overpowered by the curries and the fresh produce gets lost. Thus, here he ensures that all the products are locally sourced and farmed (such as the Barramundi -normally hooked by Aussie fishermen, now being farmed in the New Forest) and that the spices bring out the flavours of the produce without being overbearing. A three course meal for two people averages out to about £110.00 without wine.
For starters, the char-grilled swordfish with flash fried chilli squid absolutely melts in the mouth and the tandoori flavours are intense without being overbearing. The mains include the aforementioned Barramundi with Kerala curry sauce, and particularly recommended is the Tandoori king prawns with saffron sauce and pilau rice, which is served already peeled, slightly charred on the outside (Tandoori style) and are more than a mouth full in size. The halibut with green spiced sauce and lemon rice is an amazing fusion of spicy, yet sweet sauce complementing the not too strong tasting lemon rice and fresh, meaty halibut.
Be aware, all the flavours are quite intense and rich, so be careful not to mix your meal with too many of their speciality cocktails beforehand. If you cannot decide between the many choices on their menu, then opt for the tasting plates: rack of lamb, water buffalo and red deer is about £40 per person. For the non-carnivores, there are limited vegetarian options. These include the Hyderabad-style baby aubergine in sesame tamarind sauce and various side orders including Rajasthani sangria beans with fenugreek and raisin.
Desserts don’t come any better then this either - if you can manage to squeeze one in! The Cinnamon Club serves a dazzling array of sorbets and chocolates, but if you’re too full then perhaps a sip of their many dessert wines will suffice instead.
The sommelier has a rather large job on his hands, choosing wines for spicy sauces along with fresh seafood and meat, but he’s spot on with his choices. Prices average at about £50.00 per bottle, and the New Zealand (Goldwater Estate) Sauvignon Blanc is recommended for seafood. Alternatively, you can opt for one of their renowned cocktails (about £10.00) from the bar downstairs – such as the Bollywood passion-a vodka (or gin) martini which bursts with passion fruit flavours and even has a half of a passion fruit floating within. Or go for their signature drink, The Cinnamon Bellini, their take on the classic peach schnapps version, only they add cinnamon. A very strong tasting drink - one must really like cinnamon to appreciate it.
The Last Word
The old Westminster library has dusted off its fuddy duddy image and now brings you the aroma of fine dining, Indian style. You do feel like you must dress to impress here and don’t come expecting traditional Indian. Think of it as the Indian equivalent of the Ivy.