'Modern Indian' restaurants tend to be more modern than Indian. Can Cinnamon Kitchen get the spice right?

Cinnamon Kitchen, 9 Devonshire Square, London EC2, tel: 020 7626 5000

My latest conspiracy theory is that modern Indian food in this country is actually a revenge on the Brits for the injustices and excesses of colonial rule. So, instead of subtly spiced feasts that show a deep-rooted understanding of traditional techniques and a strong sense of place, we get mousses, timbales, dribs and drabs.

I value and appreciate the efforts made to evolve Indian cuisine by the country's leading modern Indians – Amaya, Benares, Quilon, Rasoi Vineet Bhatia, Tamarind, Trishna, etc – but when they go too far up their Khyber Passes, they rarely leave me with the feeling that I have eaten an Indian meal. And now that they are getting rewarded with Michelin stars, I fear that "modern Indian" will get even more modern and less Indian.

So I come to the new Cinnamon Kitchen not as a convert, but, as Henry Kissinger said, "neither anxious nor confident, but rather resigned to events". It is the louder, livelier City-side outpost of Westminster's clubby Cinnamon Club, also overseen by the rather dashing Vivek Singh, who learnt his craft with India's mighty Oberoi hotel group.

Located, ironically, in what was once the East India Company warehouse, it is a buzzy, high-ceilinged industrial space lined with polished wooden tables and topped with gleaming air-conditioning ducting. Hand-perforated globe lights cast exquisitely filigreed shadows against pearly silver-grey walls and a stool-lined open grill, while an adjoining bar, Anise, specialises in spiced-up mixology for the boom-and-bust generation.

The food promises to be lighter and simpler than at the Club, with more flexible options for snacking and sharing. A comp starter gets my interest immediately, with its moreish crisp shell of semolina encasing spiced potato, a play on the street snack gol guppas. Next, three cloth-wrapped flat breads (£5), and a variety of chutneys (sweet tomato, mustardy pea, chilli and garlic, £3) bring colour and warmth to the table, the breads fresher and chutneys more complex than the usual poppadum fodder.

A little, rich, electric-yellow sweetcorn soup (£6) is a creamy, light-hearted tease, the perfect foil for two lollipop-like masala corn kebabs that crunch with corny sweetness in a lovely combo of modern manners and traditional spicing. OK, you now have my full attention.

A stylish little tasting plate (£7) of lamb keeps up the pace, with a smooth-talking, paté-like lamb patty wrapped in betel leaf, textbook lamb seekh kebab and a little yoghurt cake sitting on diced apple. Another starter of "fat chilli" stuffed with bland, dry, under-spiced paneer (£5) loses me momentarily, but I return for the lamb rack (£18), divided into two rose-pink double cutlets, with lovely rice and a well-balanced mint-onion sauce, the lamb all the better for being roasted rather than the more traditional braising.

Both the lamb and a main course of spiced-up sea bream with Malabar curry sauce (£15) look like refugees from a groovy gastropub, but again, there is an integrity to the spicing, a sensitivity to cooking time and an attention to textural contrast that raises them above their Western plating and passé rice timbales.

The left-field, Euro-plus wine list is also full of pleasant surprises, such as a smooth, juicy Pasqua Vigneti Casterno Valpolicella (£34) that seems to go well with everything.

Even dessert is a treat, with a creamy buffalo-milk kulfi ice-cream prettily presented on a tangle of crisp sevian noodle that is like eating deep-fried angel's hair.

The power and subtlety of traditional spicing gives Cinnamon Kitchen an anchor to the past that lets it incorporate some intelligent deconstruction and innovation without losing the plot. It means the food here is as Indian as it is modern, something I had never been convinced was possible.

16/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Cinnamon Kitchen, 9 Devonshire Square, London EC2, tel: 020 7626 5000. Open 7am-midnight, Mon-Fri; 6pm-midnight, Sat. Around £100 for dinner for two, including wine and service

Second helpings: Good-value Indians

Ram's

203 Kenton Road, Harrow, Middlesex, tel: 020 8907 2022

A cheerful, friendly place specialising in Gujarati street snacks and satisfying, big-flavoured vegetarian main courses such as undhiu – spicy stuffed vegetables

Mumtaz Paan House

386-396 Great Horton Road, Bradford, tel: 01274 571 861

This much loved Bradford favourite serves up authentic Kashmiri cuisine in swish glass and marble surroundings. Try the cod in spicy tomato sauce and karahi gosht

Sagar

157 King Street, London W6, tel: 020 8741 8563

Rarely does vegetarian food pack as much flavour, variety and eye appeal as at this popular south Indian. The huge paper masala dosa is an event in itself

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever