For someone born and brought up in Bombay, sometimes nothing hits the spot quite as well as a colourful and well-textured plate of chaat… For that reason alone, I knew I was going to be quite at home at Cinnamon Bazaar, although I found plenty else to get stuck into as well, at this winsome new restaurant from Chef Vivek Singh.
As its name would suggest, the restaurant is inspired by the bustling marketing places thriving since the time of the trade routes, which connected the vast empires of the Old World.
The subtle influences reflect in small and large details – from the patterned tiles and lanterns hanging from the colourfully-draped ceilings, to the noticeably warm and hospitable service characteristic of Indian culture.
Most prominent, are the bevy of spices and timeless ingredients which dust the bold, intricately-constructed plates. They feature in the cocktails too, such as in the Makhani Gin Fizz I ordered – a tall and frothy gin-based concoction, suffused with a pinch of saffron, almonds and oodles of cream.
In the words of my endearingly-friendly server, Constantin, it’s like a lassi…. but so much better!
We started with chaat, savoury street-style snacks which can be enjoyed at any time in the day.
Dahi bhalla chaat involved soft and plumptious lentil dumplings served chilled with lashings of spiced-yogurt and a scattering of toasted cumin. It was as good as we’d serve back at home in Bombay, as was the aloo tikki chaat which saw curried white peas, crunchy sev and a medley of sweet and spicy chutneys piled on top of the potato patties.
Interestingly, many of the large plates married classic Indian flavours with a modern and broader perspective such as with the cauliflower, a humble vegetable which shows no intention of relinquishing the recent limelight shone upon it across London restaurants. Here, sumac crumble lent a tangy, almost lemony, lift to all the masala clinging on to the char-grilled florets.
Other flavours from the Middle East included labna. A creamy spread with lightly sour notes, it was a brilliant addition to the grilled aubergine, with sesame peanut crumble and toasted buckwheat adding to the gutsy assembly too.
We also tried a couple of the curries, mopping up the rich gravies with crisp and flaky pieces of naan. The Mughlai-style mushroom and green pea curry was indulgently creamy, albeit a tad excessively so, as it muted the rich earthiness of the mushrooms.
The Kabuli kofta on the other hand was well-balanced, with a tomato fenugreek gravy adding a light flavouring to the dumplings, which were pumped full of chickpeas, spinach and dried fruits.
Combining two of our favourite desserts, we concluded with a cardamom kheer crème brûlée.
Oh my, did this fusion work… the crisp glaze of burnt sugar providing a sweet crunch to offset the softer flavours of the rice pudding!
A gentle establishment with a warm air of homeliness, Cinnamon Bazaar effortlessly wooed us with its satisfyingly-bold dishes… especially the chaat, which is among the best we’ve had this side of Bombay!
Cinnamon Bazaar, 28 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7JS
I was a guest of Cinnamon Bazaar, but as always all opinions are mine and mine alone.
If you fancy a read, here’s my round-up of other new London restaurants opened in 2017 (regularly updated with noteworthy openings).