The Cinnamon Club is one of those restaurants that has been on this notepad I have at work of ‘want to eat at but can’t afford it’ restaurants. When you can get a decently tasting curry at pretty much any supermarket for under a fiver, it seems a bit ridiculous to go out and eat posh Indian food that will cost you a kidney and your first born.
However, The Cinnamon Club is an exception because as some of you may recall from my Taste of London post (what do you mean you don’t remember that post?), that was the best chicken I’ve ever had — ever. The chargrilled chicken breast with fenugreek crust and morel korma was so unforgettable that The Cinnamon Club moved to the top of my sad little notepad list.
Since it was my birthday last month, I could kind of sort of justify going and not feel so guilty for spending the money that I should have been using to pay my council tax. Hey, you only get one birthday, you have to make the most of it. Actually, you have a birthday every year so that theory doesn’t really work but whatever.
Now, the restaurant itself is in this stiffly formal environment. I mean it is in Westminster after all but still, this was formalness to the extreme. The environment definitely conveys a sense of ‘occasion’ i.e. you should be a really rich banker, politician, or a have a damn well good reason to celebrate otherwise why are you here. Set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library, the gallery above the restaurant is still lined with books. It’s a bit creepy looking, like an old haunted library that happens to have a posh restaurant in it. The space is far too grand to feel intimate which somehow detracts from the experience. I’d give the restaurant a rather low ambiance score on account of this stiff, formal, sterile feel. The waitstaff is also far too formal for their own good — it makes you feel awkward as the patron. The waitress dripped some water on the table and was so apologetic, it was a bit sickening. They also asked me if they should put my friend’s main dish under a heat lamp whilst she was in the bathroom. A bit of overkill people. Relax.
Now that the usual Rav B rant is over, onto the most important element of a restaurant review: the food. For a starter, I ordered the Rajasthani spiced black leg chicken breast, confit of wings and cucumber ketchup (£9.50). Both the chicken breast and chicken wing meat were extremely tender.
But the real highlight was the main, the Tandoori wild Spencer Gulf king prawns with coconut coriander sauce and pandan leaf rice (£27.50). The prawns were out of this world amazing—juicy, succulent, and grilled to perfection. Everyone else in the restaurant seemed to have gotten the memo on this as about every other dish that seemed to come out of the kitchen was these king prawns. I can just imagine heaps and heaps of prawns splayed out in the kitchen of this restaurant.
For sides, we ordered the masala mashed potatoes (£3.00) which were a bit of a disappointment – I was expecting a burst of flavour and they were somewhat mild. The interesting ‘newbie’ was the Rajasthani (this seemed to be a theme of the evening) sangri beans with fenugreek and raisin (£6.00). Fun fact of the day: Rajasthan, India is one of the major fenugreek-producing states in the entire world. Bet you didn’t know that eh? Neither did I. Anyway these beans had so many different flavors in them, it was hard to keep up. Every mouthful pretty much had 5 different tastes in just one spoonful. I couldn’t decide if I liked this at the time, but I kept eating them so I must have enjoyed it.
And of course what meal would be complete without some naan.
Then at the end of the meal, they brought out some free champagne and a cheesecake dessert in honor of my completion of another year of my life. This was quite nice of them although I was spending about £60 on my meal so I figured it was appropriate treatment.
In summary, the food here was definitely unique – a twist on Indian classics through a clever maneuvering of traditional spices. However, the ambiance was a definite killer.
The Old Westminster Library
30-32 Great Smith St
London SW1P 3BU
Tel: 020 7222 2555