Cinnamon Kitchen is the City sibling of the well-established Cinnamon Club in Westminster. It is tucked away in the smart pedestrianised Devonshire Square development, not far from Liverpool Street (for those coming on foot, be aware that Google Maps seems confused by the post code given (EC2M 4YL, at least at the time of writing) on the restaurant web site, which points at a location near Barbican station, whereas the actual Devonshire Square location is east of Bishopsgate.
The large dining room is smartly decorated, though for me not quite with the charm of the Cinnamon Club room, which retains some of the charm of the original Westminster Library. There is also a private dining room and a courtyard terrace; the Devonshire Square development feels open air yet is protected from the elements by a high roof. The menu goes beyond curry house staples, and features meats such as duck and even beef that would not feature on a traditional Indian menu. Starters ranged from £6 to £15, main courses from £12 to £32 (mostly hovering around the £20 mark), vegetable side dishes about £3 and desserts mostly around £6.
The wine list is unusually broad and well-chosen for an Indian restaurant, with not only good growers but some evident thought put into the list into selecting wines that will go well with spicy food. Dönnhoff Qba Riesling Trocken 2009 was listed at £44 for a wine that retails at about £12, Chapoutier Hermitage Chante Alouette was £91 for a wine that will set you back about £32 to buy, while for those who wish to splash out with their curry there is Ridge Monte Bello 1994 was £324 for a wine that costs about £120 in the shops.
A little nibble of spicy potato fritter with cranberry chutney was a pleasant start to the meal, the spices carefully restrained and the chutney giving an extra taste dimension to the potato (13/20). Just as at The Cinnamon Club, a bread selection is brought at the starter stage, which I do not really understand. The breads are fine (13/20) but breads are really suited to curries rather than most of the starters, so by the time the main course arrives they are not at their best, so we ended up ordering some fresh ones.
A starter of duck with sesame and tamarind sauce was served with a skewer of Portobello mushrooms and bell peppers. The duck was cooked pink and was of very good quality (it is a feature of the Cinnamon Kitchen and its sister restaurant that some effort is made to procure high quality meat ingredients, which frankly is a rarity in Indian restaurants in London). The peppers and mushrooms went nicely with the duck, and the sauce again had just a hint of spice, but not so much as to detract from the duck (comfortably 14/20).
A plate of assorted starters consisted of yoghurt kebab, Hyderabad lamb mince in a chilli pepper, partridge with chilli and walnut glaze and lamb kebab with paprika raita. The partridge was my favourite of these, again because the meat was of good quality as well as being carefully cooked, though the lamb mince was an interesting dish (13/20 overall). Sea bass with kokum (a fruit native to the western coastal areas of India) curry featured seared sea bass that was timed quite well, and a light sauce that had a mix that tasted of distinct spices and was not dominated by the kokum (13/20). Guinea fowl curry featured English guinea fowl slow cooked with a rich curry sauce, the meat so tender that it was almost falling off the bone; a rich, attractive dish (15/20).
Hyderabad haleem is made from wheat and minced lamb, and was an authentically rich dish with a good spice blend (14/20). Black dhal had reasonable texture, though it is not in the league of the version at Tangawizi (12/20). Kulfi is made from scratch here, in this case from buffalo milk, served with vermicelli as is traditional. This worked well, with soft texture but still the rich taste that kulfi should have (13/20).
Service was good this evening, with dishes arriving at a steady pace and attentive waiters who topped things up carefully. This smooth operation is overseen by the excellent Jean-Luc Giquel, who I recall from Nico Ladenis days. The bill came to £63 a head with beer rather than wine. Of course this is hardly cheap for an Indian meal, but you are not just paying for the smart room and superior service here. Ingredients (the chicken comes from France rather than from a UK wholesaler) are of a level unheard of in most Indian restaurants, and there is some genuine innovation going on in the cooking, though the spicing is a bit restrained for my liking. Not every dish works perfectly, but this was a pretty consistent and attractively presented meal. This was between 13/20 and 14/20 level for me overall.