'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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie