'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

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all failed
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
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

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?