Food many of us brand as ‘Indian’ takes on a swathe of regions of course, but more often than not our most pressing concern is whether to get a peshwari naan. An onion bhaji here, a pot of raita there, and we’re well on the way to a cultural journey, right?
We all know the country’s delicacies warrant a more exploratory sense. And that doesn’t mean breaking the bank – after all, affordable street food is often the best way to get in touch with cuisines.
But at times a more formal setting is an indulgence that can’t be ignored; moments of extravagance. A step or two before jumping on a plane perhaps.
Bromley’s Cinnamon Culture is somewhere with that in mind. There’s no 70s-style decor or overly creamy korma. It’s quite elegant in fact, and clean-cut, with modern cooking inspired by Goa to Rajasthan.
The smiley, polite service often found in ‘Indian’ restaurants has remained, but the food’s more refined. And while it’s not quite the well-known ‘club’ with the same preceding spice, south of the river there are few so upmarket.
The cocktails aren’t bad. Tastes like cardamom (obviously), saffron, and mango give classics aromatic twists. Deep in Bromley I haven’t seen many bartenders with passable ability – Cinnamon Culture’s make some pleasant drinks. The beers are good, by the way, and the wines traditional and safe.
We had a take on a daiquiri, which combines traditional rum and lime with cardamom and pineapple, and a ‘Saffron Garden’ of gin, jasmine syrup, and other fancies.
It’s the poppadoms though that excite. They’re light and fragrant. And the sauces in which to dip them venture further than mango chutney (but don’t worry, it’s there).
We then had potli (it means market kitchen) – parsnip samosas that are crisp and dainty. And chatpati chaat – spruced up street flavours of perfumed yoghurt and sour tamarind.
Our coastal scallops sat in a Keralan sauce all rich with coconut; a bit swamped and overwhelmed, but soft and tender. The bhindi – okra with tomato and onion – is thoroughly good news.
The chicken makhani meanwhile is far closer to what many eat more regularly, not dissimilar to a masala or even a Korai maybe. But the seasoning is a bit deeper, dabbling in honey.
It all ended as it began: fruity and sweet. Although the French fusion attempt of a mango brulee is not particularly accomplished. Should've had gulab jamun.
Still, Cinnamon Culture, with some precision, allows favourites to become somewhat more distinguished and introduces new ideas. It’s not cheap, but it’s not as expensive as going to London, or India, either.