What with it being the second week of January and more New Year's resolutions than hearts broken, I made my way through the first snow-sludge of the season to join Cinnamon Bazaar (a new name from Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Collection) for night of chats and chaat.
The Venue and Atmosphere
Maiden's Lane is something of a jumble of high-end restaurants, casual diners and jutting bars, making it the Covent Garden go-to for dinner. Set behind large copper doors, Cinnamon Bazaar is two floors of Indian authenticity with a dose of contemporary kitsch. While the dining space downstairs flits between bar space out front and a romantic restaurant with ceiling chiffons and shutters just to the back, upstairs is a fresher and lighter brand of dining where rich greens, golden hues and hand-painted panels pay homage to the closing word in the restaurant's name, Bazaar.
One of the prettiest ladies on the lane, not only does Cinnamon Bazaar have integrity behind its interiors, it was already a popular place to visit after its relatively recent opening. Mostly shared between couples dining and the odd family meal, Cinnamon have seemingly already gained notoriety and a casual dining buzz.
The Food and Drink
Constantin, our server for the night, was very insistent on us cracking on with cocktails, and we weren't ladies to complain. A selective Mr.Lyan menu from London's infamous mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, our starter drinks were the Bazaar Old Fashioned with Coconut-washed Indian Scotch (£10.50) and the Falooda Swizzle with white rum, basil seed and creme d'abricot (£11). Surprisingly sweet with that swift, Scotch edge, not only was the old fashioned made for swirling and supping, the Falooda Swizzle was light, punchy and the perfect way to kick dinner off.
The beauty of a menu like that of Cinnamon Bazaar is that sharing is insisted upon. Our starters were a unique medley of decorative bowls and colourful ingredients as we shared the Samosa Chaat (£5.75) and the Aloo Tikki Chaat (£4.50) alongside Calcutta Spiced Crab Bonda, with Chana Masala Hummus on the side. Small bowls packed with spicy inklings and softening yoghurt, these single handedly are the best Indian dishes i've ever tried. While the samosa's were perfectly formed bundles complimented by the bite of tamarind chutney, the hummus was rich, the bonda's complimented by the chickpea batter and the spiced potato chaat (Aloo Tikki) was the perfect hint of savoury and spice. A meal made up of these dishes alone would be a meal well spent.
Constantin is a treasure of Cinnamon's, and made sure that not only were our next drinks were a pair of the light, pert and almost sour Makhani Gin Fizz, he also promised a selection of main's that supported and impressed us veggies and meat eaters alike. While my Malabar boatman’s haddock curry with kokum (£13.50) was light and slightly spiced with the most glistening fish, the grilled aubergine with sesame peanut crumble (£7.50) showed why this vegetable is coming up in the ranks with a welcoming texture and yoghurt. Closing with a dessert wine and carrot halwa roll with clove flavoured double cream, Cinnamon Bazaar signed off with yet another reminder of authenticity and creativity.
Vivek Singh is a tidal wave of some of London's best Indian food and he clearly hasn't let the load slip at Cinnamon Bazaar. Bringing Indian heritage alive with an air of both kitsch and cool, Cinnamon Bazaar is authentic, it's moreish and it's ever championing the art of sharing plates. If the craft of pen, pencil and letters were still a thing, i'd write home about that chaat. I'll just have to text my mum instead.