Name: Cinnamon Bazaar
Where: 28 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7JS, http://cinnamon-bazaar.com/
Cost: Small eats cost from £4.50 to £16 with sides of greens, dal or naans from £2.80 to £4. Dishes are designed to be shared, and the average cost is around £30 to £40 per person (not including drinks).
There are set menus including lunch at £14 for two courses, or £16 for three. The pre- and post-theatre dinner menu is served from 5.30pm to 6.30pm and from 9.30pm onwards, and offers a two-course menu at £18 and three courses for £20.
About: Cinnamon Bazaar is the latest addition to the Cinnamon Collection, a group of Indian restaurants run by Vivek Singh, restauranteur and a celebrity chef regular on a number of television cookery shows such as BBC’s Saturday Kitchen.
Vivek first made his name with his flagship restaurant Cinnamon Club by championing a brand of modern, innovative Indian cooking. His contemporary approach has further translated into his other restaurants: Cinnamon Soho, Cinnamon Star and now, Cinnamon Bazaar.
As the name suggests Cinnamon Bazaar plays on the idea of a “bazaar”, a central marketplace where for centuries ideas and ingredients were exchanged, and cultures converged to come together to create one big melting pot. The fusion concept translates well at Cinnamon Bazaar with the restaurant’s menu drawing inspiration from countries dotted along the trading routes of old.
The design of the restaurant also plays on the theme of a bazaar, offering a laid back environment where diners can relax and share a varied selection of dishes and drinks. Laid over two floors, Cinnamon Bazaar is richly decorated in vibrant colours such as deep blues and fresh greens.
The restaurant has made use of organic, natural materials which reflect the history of India. Finally, Illuminated lanterns and hanging ceiling drapes complete the eclectic bazaar ambience.
What We Ate: There are three main sections to the menu - snacks, chaat and bazaar plates made for sharing. There is a small dessert menu too. From the snack menu, we had the Crab bonda (£5.90) - this deep fried Calcutta snack blended spiced crab with scarlet coloured beetroot in chickpea batter, and served with salad and a chilli and coriander relish.
The tapioca or cassava chips (£4.50) came with a deliciously zingy green chilli mayonnaise.
Moving on to the Chaat menu, we had the aloo tikki chaat (£4.50) – this was a spiced potato cake with curried chickpeas. I enjoyed this tangy dish with just enough spice, and a scattering of fresh pomegranate seeds.
From the small eats section of the menu, we had 4 different dishes to share. The double cooked pork belly 'Koorg' style, with curried yoghurt (£7) was undoubtedly the best dish the meal - made with black vinegar known as Kachampuli or Coorgi vinegar, the pork was tender and unctuous, served with a cooling spiced yoghurt, and a chilli and coriander sauce.
Also excellent was the vindaloo of ox cheek, masala potato mash and pickled radish (£14.50) with just the right spicy levels for me and with meat you could cut with a spoon!
The Luknow-style chicken biryani with burhani raita (£14.50) was fragrant with cardamom, cumin, clove and saffron. This was a deliciously light, fresh dish with different layers of flavour and aroma.
Equally good was the Rajasthani lamb and corn curry with stir-fried greens (£12) – a mild curry, with tender sweet lamb and myriad spices.
For dessert, we chose the cardamom kheer creme brûlée (£4.50), a creamy, fragrant rice pudding dish, served with a soft shortbread biscuit.
The carrot halwa roll (£5), one of Vivek’s signature dishes, was served warm, with an intensely clove-flavoured iced double cream.
What We Drank: The wine list is compact (15 reds and 15 whites), but offers a range of interesting options, starting with a white Pinot Bianco / Garganega blend at £19, and the entry-level red is a Merlot-Corvina blend (£21), both from the Veneto, Italy. There are some interesting options like a native Armenian Areni Noir, and a Slovenian Malvasia.
The cocktail list is the result of of a collaboration between chef Vivek Singh and mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana. Cocktails range from £8.50 to £11.
We started with a Bazaar Old Fashioned (£10.50) made from coconut-washed Indian Scotch, coconut sugar and burnt cinnamon. We also tried the Gin Julep (£10), served in a polished copper mug, blended Star of Bombay gin, mint, amchoor green mango and black cardamom.
We chose a bottle of Rioja Reserva, Isadi, 2012 (£45) to accompany our meal. Made from Tempranillo from the Alavesa area of Rioja, this was a straightforward wine with a good balance of red berry fruit and spice.
Likes: that double cooked Koorg pork curry was nothing short of sensational and warrants a return visit in its own right! It was great to see Vivek actually in the kitchen of his new restaurant Cinnamon Bazaar.
Dislikes: due to the location (Covent Garden) the restaurant does not make for a quiet night out.
Verdict: For well made, beautifully balanced Indian cooking at reasonable prices, very few places can beat the new Cinnamon Bazaar. Recommended.