Power is returning to Battersea with the arrival of a new outpost of Cinnamon Kitchen.
They say that food experiences can transport you to other worlds and, as we take our table, I sense a distant rumble. Could it be rolling thunder over the foothills of the Himalayas? No, it’s the 19:47 Southern service to London Victoria.
We’re in a huge railway arch a few steps from the Thameside path and next door to Battersea power station, the latest location for Vivek Singh’s clutch of restaurants. His original Cinnamon Club opened in March 2001 in what was the Westminster Library offering an up-market take on Indian cuisine popular with city types.
A vaulted ceiling is always pleasing and the industrial aesthetic of exposed brick, a central steel framed private dining mezzanine and the stainless steel of the large open kitchen to the rear, mixes with cosy, members club style dark green stained timber wall panelling and velvety emerald banquettes at its edges. It’s an odd combination, but the thoughtful application of subdued lighting ensures it gets away with it.
A long bar lines one wall boasting an Indian-inspired, spiced craft.cocktail list designed by the award-winning Tony Conigliaro. I try the Sherried Sandalwood concoction which brings new delicious meaning to the term Cream Sherry with its sweet emulsion. Jayne has an Indian gin and tonic which I thought was kind of Indian anyway, so it’s no surprise it tastes just like a gin and tonic.
The bar has a tantalising menu of’bites’ inspired by the dishes found on the Delhi Jaipur Pink City Express route, but we are here for dinner. The appetisers on offer range from Bombay street food to a ceviche of black bream but I’m drawn to the grilled wild African prawn with a coriander and garlic crust, partly to see how ginormous a single prawn can be.
Bharwan Courgette filled with spiced vegetable ratatouille arrives for Jayne and she relishes its complex spice combination. My African prawn doesn’t disappoint either as it is the size of a banana and tastes so very prawny, with char flavours from the grill mixing with the herbs. I guess Indian prawns just don’t measure up.
Our efficient and friendly waiter serves the wine, a Malbec Reservado, Fabre Montmayou, Mendoza 2014. An organic Argentinian rich and spicy red, robust enough to hold its own with such flavoursome food. All the staff here seem to understand the need to be at once attentive and yet discreet as they float about their business, gliding in to deposit our main courses.
My clove-smoked lamb rump blends fire and spice with lamb so tender it’s like it was treated to a luxury spa weekend. A potato paratha goes perfectly with it and I try to do that thing when you take smaller mouthfuls and chew slowly to prolong the taste and texture experience.
Of course, by now we’re pretty full – who ever has room for pudding after Indian food? But the dessert menu is too interesting to pass up. Not merely the standard curry house Kulfi you’d ordinarily find, but ice creams and sorbets made in-house or sticky ginger toffee pudding, or a lassi pannacotta.
For Jayne it’s a hot dark chocolate mousse which is agreeably oozy and cut through with cinnamon ice cream, but for me it’s got to be the Double Ka Meetha spiced bread and butter pudding with rasmalai sauce (which seems to be a cross between custard and cream).
It turns out to be so much lighter and less stodgy than I recall my mum’s yesteryear version being. I obviously prefer hers, but at this stage of the evening, a weighty portion of that would make me so full we’d have to call 999.
At the end of the night Vivek visits our table and is genuinely warm and friendly as he enthuses about this latest venture and it’s all day offers of 2 or 3 course set lunches or small plates plus one dish lunches for those on a budget or in a hurry. He is serving great food here and clearly enjoying it.
The short walk back to Battersea Park station is a welcome aid for our digestion. En route it occurs to me; if just a small fraction of the residents in these hulking great blocks now surrounding and crowding the power station discover Cinnamon Kitchen Battersea, Vivek will easily fill his 120 covers – and if they do try it, they will surely decide to return.