Vivek Singh is a canny man. Anyone who has been to Westminster’s peerless Cinnamon Club will know that his mastery of sub-continental cuisine is without parallel in London dining, but his Cinnamon Kitchen offshoot – slightly less formal, but just as delicious – has attracted deserved plaudits since he first opened in the City nearly a decade ago. Now, with due care and attention, he has come to Oxford to open his first out-of-London restaurant. The city of the dreaming spires is, indeed, a very fortunate place.
It helps that the Cinnamon Kitchen’s location, on the top floor of the newly relaunched and revamped Westgate Centre, is something very special indeed. The views over the aforementioned spires are stunning, especially on a late summer (or early autumn) evening, and the mixture of classicism and modernity seems an apt fit for Singh’s cooking, here more than ably interpreted by his capable lieutenants.
One starts off with a cocktail, because all of the Cinnamon restaurants are famous for them, here designed by expert mixologist Tony Conigliaro. My wife very much enjoyed her mace martini and the manager, summing me up at a glance, told me ‘you should have a coriander seed old fashioned.’ Reader, I might be an old fashioned sort of chap, but it was very, very good indeed.
The menu here is fundamentally a simple one; excellent examples of fish, meat and vegetables, interpreted with some flair and attention to detail. We begin with a sea bream ceviche and fillet of cured salmon; both are superbly spiced and presented. Meanwhile, a small child eagerly devours a chicken kebab with peshwari naan; we sample the latter in the interests of research and can report that it’s very, very good, as we wash the whole shebang down with a glass of Gavi.
Then it’s onto carnivorous pastures for the mains. Nancy pronounces the Old Delhi style butter chicken as ‘just as good as I had in India’; never having ventured there, I can’t comment but the small taste I was permitted was indeed sensational. I remembered Singh’s way with lamb from a previous visit to the Cinnamon Club and thought that the rump here was worth ordering, especially as it came with keema karela. Again – and this wasn’t just thanks to the Argento Malbec that we were drinking – there was to be no disappointment here. Our charming waiter recommended that we try the trio of dal (and the black lentil was by far the stand-out), and of course we would have failed in our duty if we didn’t have the garlic naan.
While none of this is cheap, exactly, it isn’t at all expensive for the quality of what we had, and if one ordered frugally off the a la carte it would be perfectly easy to have a three-course meal for two with wine for no more than £100 – and if one has the decent value set menus that are offered at various times, this can come down even more. (We were also taken by the 2 for £10 offer on cocktails, although this could easily have gone awry.) Yet as we staggered off into the evening, replete after pudding of sticky ginger toffee pudding and dark chocolate mousse, the happy thought running through our heads once again was ‘canny man, that chef Singh’.
Cinnamon Kitchen, Westgate Shopping Centre, Oxford OX1 1TR. For more information, including menus and details of private dining, visit www.cinnamon-kitchen.com.
This November marks the 10th anniversary of Vivek Singh’s renowned modern Indian restaurant, Cinnamon Kitchen, located in the London’s Devonshire Square. In celebration of this milestone, Vivek has teamed up with five of London’s finest Indian chefs including Will Bowlby, Asma Khan, Cyrus Todiwala, Sriram Aylur, and Ravinder Bhogal to host a one-off feasting dinner on Monday 5th November 2018 to showcase a decade of Indian deliciousness. Tickets are £75 per person and can be purchased here: www.eventbrite.co.uk.