Tuesday 20th February

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Whisky and Spice Dinner at The Cinnamon Club

| Restaurants | 09/07/2013

Char-grilled Spencer Culf king prawns with mace and cardamom.
Char-grilled Spencer Culf king prawns with mace and cardamom.

Pairing a New World sauvignon blanc with a summery, fresh prawn dish is normal. It can complement as much as any seasoning, unmasking and fusing with different flavours. But just seeing whisky any time before the digestif is likely to raise eyebrows. On a mission to change this perception is Master Blender Richard Paterson, using The Cinnamon Club’s Whyte & Mackay Whisky Evening as a vehicle to do so. Five courses of some of London’s finest Indian food were each paired with five selected whiskeys.


Opening with melt-in-your-mouth king prawns, a touch of cardamom added a gingery zest to the smokey flavour of the tandoor-style cooking. Served on the side was a Dalmore 15, described in one review as ‘smooth as a Highland loch on a still summer’s evening’. It felt a little strange drinking whisky with a starter, but it was surprisingly tasty.

Next up was a sliver of sea bream, served marinated in a coat of shallots and chillies. The bite of the shallots’ balanced the delicate texture of the fish and a small serving of green mango and coconut chutney, deep red from yet more chilli, added flavour as well as colour to the plate. Served alongside the dish was Whyte & Mackay’s ‘The Thirteen’, unique as after 12 years it is put into sherry casks to ‘marry’ for another year.


Spice crusted sea bream with coconut chutney

Spice crusted sea bream with coconut chutney


A breast of Anjou squab, or young, pigeon, followed. It was tender and tasty, and served with smoked paprika raita, and Alphonso mango puree providing some added tartness. The whisky was a Mackinlay’s Shackleton, an exact replication of a 1903 bottle left by Sir Ernest Shackleton during a failed expedition to the South Pole, and perfectly preserved under the ice – see picture below.


Tandoori breast of Anjou squab pigeon

Tandoori breast of Anjou squab pigeon


The penultimate dish was a roasted loin of Cumbrian red deer. An onion sauce added flavour and for the hungry, or maybe greedy, was served with pilau rice and naan bread. To accompany the deer a Jura Prophecy whisky was served, a 43% amber masterpiece made on the eponymous Scottish isle of Jura.


Roast loin of wild Cumbrian red deer


Finally for desert, we had a Dalmore whisky and orange parfait, served with English cherry and ginger chutney. This dish was the only disappointment of the evening, as to my palette it could have had more zing. But the surprisingly drinkable Dalmore King Alexander III more than made up for it.


Dalmore whisky and orange parfait with English cherry and ginger chutney

Dalmore whisky and orange parfait with English cherry and ginger chutney


For someone who uses the Twitter handle @the_nose, its clear Richard takes his whisky seriously. He’s been in the industry for over 45 years, and is the third generation in his family to do so. Adding a mixer, or even ice, is an insult and if he catches you holding the glass the wrong way ‘I’ll kill ya’, he bellows; only half-jokingly. First insert the nose directly into the glass. Not above the glass like a sommelier, but in it. Next inhale. Slowly. For at least 15 seconds. He believes that like a top perfume, whisky contains key notes. And as he’s won more whisky awards than perhaps anyone else in the industry, it is best to do as he says! Next keep the whisky on your tongue for another 15 seconds. The first sip washes away the taste of breakfast, so it’s really the second that is all-important.

A sommelier will normally choose a wine to match the dish chosen by a diner, but head chef Rakesh Ravindran was sent tasting notes and crafted food to match the malts and blends. ‘Whisky flavours are intense compared to wine,’ he explained, ‘and not everything can be matched. The first whisky [The Dalmore 15] had citrus notes, so I thought of prawns.’ He confessed that his main concern was people drinking too much to appreciate his efforts. With free-flowing wine, and regular top-ups of the five whiskies, it was a valid fear.


The whiskies, with Mackinlay's Shackleton taking centre stage

The whiskies, with Mackinlay’s Shackleton taking centre stage



Walking distance from both Parliament and Buckingham Palace, The Cinnamon Club oozes old-world charm in the building that was once the Old Westminster Library. We sat at a circular table in the private dining room, which added a touch of familiarity to a bunch of whisky-loving strangers.

Most attendees seemed to be Cinnamon Club regulars who had found out about the evening through their mailing list. I sat next to dairy trader John Meer from Chelmsford who said he came regularly and loved the food, but questioned the value. At £90 a pop excluding service charge, it’s not cheap but for an intimate experiential dining experience I would highly recommend it. Operations Manager Hari Nacaraj said they are hoping to repeat the evening depending on Richard’s availability.


Private dining room in The Cinnamon Club

Private dining room in The Cinnamon Club


Facade of The Cinnamon Club

Facade of The Cinnamon Club



The Cinnamon Club

Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BU


020  7222 2555



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