What: Cinnamon Bazaar (whose famous siblings are Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Club) has created a dining den serving a thali menu. The pop-up, Bhendi Bazaar, is a sexy hideaway suitable for no more than 12 people.
New? With the mantra ‘always leave them wanting more’ in mind, Bhendi Bazaar is only available during December with its last day on NYE so move quickly if you want a piece of the (thali) pie.
Where? Bhendi Bazaar can be found on Cinnamon Bazaar’s top floor. Cinnamon Bazaar, 28 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden WC2E 7JS www.cinnamon-bazaar.com
On the menu: Thali is an Indian-style meal made up of a selection of various dishes which are served on a platter so there are few things to try. There is a vegetarian option too but both thalis include simmered black dal Makhani, Punjabi vegetable samosa, pomegranate raita, naan bread, tomato and kombucha chutney, Pilau rice and Mughlai mushroom curry. The meat thali has options like traditional Bengali-style holiday lamb curry and Punjabi chicken butter masal while the vegetarian thali has vibrant dishes like Jaipur okra curry.
The Look: The focal point of the snug room is the low coffee table where the thali platters will be laid for dining, cosy cushions are a dime a dozen on the sofa and even the stools get their own over-sized one. The hot pink and orange colour theme seems suitably Indian and fashionable, and is soothed by green potted palm trees that also add a tropical touch amongst the drapes, candles and flowers.
What We Ate: Now, normally chutney isn’t worth getting excited over but…then I’d never tried tomato chutney with kachumber and lime before – it’s seriously moreish especially as it’s served in a tiny pot. Samosa chaat is like a deconstructed Punjabi vegetable samosa, covered in curried white peas and tangy tamarind chutney, meaning there’s an explosion of flavour in every heaped spoonful. The paneer lalabdar (Punjabi paneer butter masala) was the vegetarian alternative chicken lalabdar, both served in a delicious creamy sauce. The dal makhni, 24 hour simmered black lentils, was fairly oily but I quite liked it that way.
Gulab jamun, a caramelised milk dumpling in rasmalai sauce, is one of my favourite desserts and renowned chef, Vivek Singh, didn’t fail to deliver with the perfect balance of sweet and creamy.
What We Drank: The cocktail menu was created through a unique collaboration between Cinnamon Bazaar’s Vivek Singh and award-winning mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan. Those with a sweet tooth i.e. me, will love the Gin Julep made with Star of Bombay, mint, amchoor green mango and black cardamom, if you’re more into your classic drinks then the Bazaar Old Fashioned is the one for you; coconut-washed Indian Scotch with delightful extras of coconut sugar and burnt cinnamon.
Go With: Given the time of year and Bhendi Bazaar’s size, it’s an ideal setting for intimate Christmas parties and suppers.
Final Word: I prefer trying lots of different flavours so the thali approach is already a winner in my eyes, it helps that the food is all delicious. The thali presentation is great and authentic and each little pot is filled with flavour, hopefully the thali menu will survive longer than the pop-up and make it to the main menu.
Bhendi Bazaar: 2nd Floor, Cinnamon Bazaar, 28 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden WC2E 7JS www.cinnamon-bazaar.com