A taste of Cinnamon Culture

Posted on Back of House Mar 2011 - by Tandoori Magazine
A taste of Cinnamon Culture

After successfully heading up the kitchens at Babur Brasserie chef-patron Jiwan Lal has opened his own restaurant Cinnamon Culture. He talks to Tandoori.

The chef Jiwan Lal is someone whose talents have been revered by both the public and critics alike. Unlike so many high-end Indian chefs, though his stint in the UK has been relatively recent, with his rise coming at Babur Brasserie in south-east London.

The media raved about his cooking there, citing how he got the mix of traditional Indian dishes and the cutting edge so spot on. National newspapers such as The Independent said, "people don't come here and ask for curry house dishes - instead they enjoy the wonderful offerings of talented chef Jiwan Lal and his team", while the well-respected London restaurant guide Square Meal said, "each dish is a fine tuned combination of top British produce with Asian spices and aromatics."

Fine praise indeed. Only, Lal is no longer at Babur and has instead, with co-owner Manpreet Dhingra, MD of Saffron D'or, the famed Asian catering company, launched his own venture, Cinnamon Culture, in Sundridge Park, where he is the chef-patron. While it may be early days, judging by the high quality and innovative menu, Lal seems to have another hit on his hands.

Add to that an airy and impressive looking premises which has been converted from an old pub site and you definitely have a major addittion to the UK's Indian restaurant scene.

"What I wanted to do with Cinnamon Culture's menu," says Lal, "was to bring the wealth of experience that I have under my belt and make a showpiece of it with the added bonus of choice ingredients and well-matched flavours."

Just some of the interesting items on the menu include talli macchi (pan seared hake with roasted aubergine salsa and curried onion seed oil), vegetable potelle samosa (pastry filled with potato, peas and cashews seasoned with chaat masala), honey mustard duck (grilled duck breast, honey mustard sauce and south Indian rice noodles) and jeera chocolate fondant (cumin-infused dark chocolate fondant with ice cream).

"Some of the dishes on the menu," notes Lal, "may appear to be quite traditional, but my presentation is quite modern. At the same time though, I'm adamant that it would be wrong for me to go off track and lose my Indian heritage. That will always be there. However, I'm a great believer in cooking being refined."

As an example of this "refinement", the tarka dal has been given a novel spin. When the dish arrives at the customer's table what the waiter will do is pour the tarka - made of garlic and cumin ghee (clarified butter) - on the dal. The creativity also extends elsewhere: the dessert of gulab jaman, for instance, has hot chocolate sauce poured on it.

Moving away from the food, Lal touches on the premises: "Manpreet and I had been looking for a suitable site for almost a year," he admits. "We knew of these premises, but were already focusing on another area. Then we thought well, there is no harm in looking at it.

"When did get a viewing, we knew instantly that it would be the premises for our restaurant. It had high ceilings, good lighting, a bar and even a large garden area where you can have a barbecue menu during the summer. It couldn't have been better."

 

Sample Dishes

Cinnamon Culture

Starters
Zaffrani Ostrich      
Ostrich marinated with saffron and ground spices.
Khatte Bater ka Seena 
Tamarind glazed jumbo quail breast from the tandoor, with bubble ‘n' squeak
Beetroot Cutlet 
Spiced beetroot patty coated in crispy flat rice

Mains
Lasoni Jheenga 
Twice-marinated jumbo prawns from the tandoor, with masala rice flour cake
Goat Vindaloo 
Slowly cooked goat meat in freshly ground masala, with steamed rice
Nalli Gosht 
Baby lamb shank cooked with aromatic spices, served with cumin rice

Desserts
Choco Gulab Jamun 
Reduced milk dumpling, sweet lemon jam and buffalo milk kulfi
Kulfi  
Homemade Indian ice cream guava, blueberries & black cardamom

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