"The greatest Indian cook in Britain"Jay Rayner "The Observer"
"Cook with love. Love your cooking" Gita Mistry

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Cinnamon Club

While sitting around the stove tucking  into roasted chestnuts with friends  I am reminded of my time with Vivek Singh, chef-proprietor of the Cinnamon Club, and his team members.

The Cinnamon Club is in the building formerly occupied by the Old Westminster Library. The Library was opened 1893. There are still a lot of books about allowing customers to dip into a novel over coffee. It is not  from "the corridors of power".  I should not be at all surprised if the odd minister, MP or mandarin dines there from time to time. The restaurant has a sophisticated elegant atmosphere. waiters are well informed and friendly.  Staff seem to dance around the clientèle to meet their needs.

 My first impression of the restaurant was of a well run organization. In fact it runs like clockwork. Dishes are prepared incrementally. Garnishes, touches of herbs, diced marinated vegetables, delicate sauces are added in turn transforming every plate into a work of art.  Each chef knows exactly what is required for an order - sauces, relishes, accompaniments and dressings in the correct sequence - so that the dish passes final inspection  ready to be served to a customer. As he plated it up Vivek explained the process to me.

I was given a spoon by Vivek. He encouraged me to try all the sauces and and accompaniments that had been cooked with in the kitchen . amuse bouche here or a starter there until I had completed my progress through the kitchen. I started with the tandoor section facing the heat and relished the  fast and furious cooking. I worked my way to the cooler  and more delicate patisserie section where I  helped to make one my favourite desserts. namely a lemon and cardamom tart. There was a section that dealt with all the sauces and accompaniments where a lot of clever spicing and combination took place.  After the bread section where I got stuck into making whole wheat paratha, that was my favourite..  .The restaurant did not confine itself too Indian food. I saw smoked salmon and lemon going up the to restaurant too.

As I circulated round this kitchen I shared ideas and tips with each of the chefs.  For instance, I had a delightful conversation about different types of leaf and clarifying the difference between a curry leave, a bay leaf, a kafter leaf and a cinnamon leaf. Something I learned some years ago. We laughed and discussed the flavour each leaf gives to dish and how easily they get confused.

Time passed quickly and it was time for lunch. I headed into the restaurant to be served lunch of tandoori king prawns, delicate spiced rice and  a coconut sauce and left the restaurant with a beautiful gift  from Vivek- his latest book Spice at Home. I look forward to returning and hopefully working with him and his team again .

Heres a little tip you may like to know whilst cooking prawns: Try avoiding frying prawns in hot oil as this will toughen them and tighten the membrane and stop them absorbing the spicy curry sauce.You may like to try my delicate refreshing  Prawn dish. which awarded me a place as a finalist at the National Curry Competition. Enjoy.

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