The Cinnamon Club
The Old Westminster Library, Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU
WLC Rank : 176
Glass from : £ 5.70 (125 ml)
BEST FORAn imposing dining room
Balanced, inquisitive list
Profoundly flavoured dishes
Bastion of Indian fine dining, The Cinnamon Club opened in 2001, with chef, Vivek Singh later receiving an honorary doctorate from Warwick University for his contribution to the development of Indian cuisine in the UK.
Elegantly housed in the voluminous and imposing grade II-listed former Westminster Library is the flagship restaurant of Bengal-born, Oberoi luxury hotels and resorts trained chef, Vivek Singh. His long-term wine consultant, Laurent Chaniac has assuredly put together an appealing, ready to drink list echoing the restaurant’s interest in sustainability. Barring the odd trap in areas such as grande marque Champagne, this is a largely accessibly priced list which, notably for a restaurant of this status, does not feature an added charge for service.
In Chaniac’s words, “we focus on wines produced from strong ecosystems meaning minimum use of chemicals. Careful viticulture helps keep soils alive and the resulting wines tend to have a sense of place, being more mineral and complex.”
Chaniac’s list opens with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek quote by Ernest Hemingway, whose books often feature gravity defyingly alcohol-sodden protagonists: “My only regret is that I did not drink enough wine.”
Complex, spice-scented dishes, realised by another longstanding employ, executive sous chef, Sankar Chandrasekaran, court an abundance of options when it comes to wine, says Chaniac, who recalls the pairings he worked on for a Bordeaux event. “I paired young Sauternes (Château Guiraud) with a savoury stir-fry of pork belly with soy and honey with masala cashew nut and curry leaf lime crumble. And with Château Beychevelle, we matched tandoori spiced octopus with a Malvani style coriander sauce.”
In addition to bucket list Bordeaux, the inquisitive list includes older Muscadets, “which can be thrilling,” notes Chaniac. “I found an amazing, concentrated one from Domaine de La Grange (Goulaine) with an incredible texture and long-lasting luscious yellow fruits.” He is also refining his selection of Indian wines, having recently introduced a Cabernet, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Marselan blend by J’NOON – a co-production betwixt Kapil Sekhri (Fratelli wines, India) and Jean-Charles Boisset of Burgundy. Its name is a French take on the Urdu, “Junoon” (passion).
Regular wines by the glass, including Rieslings, Sancerre and Grüner Veltliner, are brisk, refreshing and fruit-forward, while the revamped fine wine offer by the glass features Serralunga’s Dacapo and Michel Rolland’s Croatian project, Sv Roko Domaine Saint Hills. Next on the agenda is the inclusion of orange wines “which will work with spices,” says Chaniac, adding, “the more unusual wines sell well in our tasting menu.”
Care of Nick Smith, be sure to make time for a cocktail in the bar, such as “For Bees Sake” (turmeric infused Pisco, honey, apple, chamomile and lemon) and “The Lassi” (spice-infused Crazy Gin, tandoor green mango, black cardamom and black pepper cordial).
By Douglas Blyde.
The flagship restaurant of the Bengal born, Oberoi luxury hotels and resorts trained chef, Vivek Singh occupies the atmospheric sedate Grade II-listed former Westminster Library.
Wine consultant, Laurent Chaniac has assuredly put together an appealing, ready to drink list echoing the restaurant’s interest in sustainability. This is largely accessibly priced, too, and notably for a restaurant of this stature, does not automatically feature an added service charge. In Chaniac’s words, ‘we focus on wines produced from strong ecosystems meaning minimum use of chemicals. Careful viticulture helps keep soils alive and the resulting wines tend to have a sense of place, being more mineral and complex.’
Chaniac’s list is dominated by Western Europe ‘with a good accent on Australia,’ such as Pinot Noir from Victoria’s Dixon Vineyard, identified under the ‘matured red’ selection. Also expect ‘some really interesting wines from the USA’ including historical vintages of Opus One. Many wines are ‘interesting variations of the local norm, e.g. wines from hotter climates tending to be fresher than usual while retaining the rich character of the warmer sites, while wines from cooler climates tend to be riper and richer than the norm.’
By the glass, and carafe, expect a strong selection ranging from Istrian Malvasia, to opulent Meursault, Patagonian Malbec and Palo Cortado sherry (Lustau), as well as Blanc des Noirs from England and Lombardy pin up, Franciacorta (Contadi Castaldi).
Given the depthfully spiced nature of dishes by Singh and head chef, Rakesh Nair, there will be plenty of food-friendly Rieslings, Sauvignon Blancs (including Sula’s Maharashtra from India), and Pinot Gris to dovetail.
Starters may include tandoori octopus with chutney aloo, fennel salad and tomato lemongrass dressing, then tandoori loin of Oisin red deer with black stone flower reduction and fenugreek potatoes, or, to share, Old Delhi style butter chicken on the bone, black lentils, pilau rice and garlic naan. To finish, try the lemon and ginger brûlée with masala sable, perhaps paired with a succulent glass of Côteaux du Layon.
Singh also oversees Cinnamon Soho, Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Bazaar, the latter of which are set for a nationwide rollout.
By Douglas Blyde.