In 2000, I arrived in the UK from Jaipur, India, and began looking for a space to open my first restaurant. I needed a blank canvas. I found a spot on Great Smith Street: it was a disused library. All I had to do was make it happen.
The former Westminster Library became The Cinnamon Club. Our kitchen combined Indian cooking techniques with seasonal produce. The restaurant went on to be known as the ‘Westminster canteen’, frequented by political journalists, politicians and ministers. We even had a division bell fitted to alert diners every time parliament had to vote. Guests would leave their meal and come back to finish eating after voting.
I’ve got a lot of memories of Great Smith Street, because for a long time, it was my home. For ten-odd years, I didn’t see much else of London. I didn’t need to, because my bus stop was right opposite Big Ben, then I’d walk across Parliament Square, up Victoria Street, and I was there. It was my world. The street itself wasn’t very busy or known for its restaurant scene, but I think that’s why it became so special.
The Cinnamon Club is celebrating turning 20 with a series of events to mark the Indian Festival Season. Find out more here.
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