What makes London’s relationship with Indian cuisine special?
London is possibly the most unique city in the world for gastronomy, and particularly for Indian cuisine. I’ve said this before and it’s a little controversial but I believe London is the global capital of Indian food, not Delhi because it is so dynamic and because of the level of experimentation. London’s affinity and affection goes much further back than people think – there have been British people in India for 300 years, entire generations of families. The romance of the Raj always found its way back to Britain and there has always been a cultural exchange. London is a great city that houses all cuisines and the restaurant scene I as good as anywhere in the world.
Is there more about Indian cuisine that Londoners have to learn?
There is so much left to come over from India – different dishes that aren’t in the mainstream yet in Britain. This is true even of some British cuisine in London. The city feels a lot more niche and focused than in the past however, it has come a long way.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Shut up and get on with it” was the best piece of advice I got in the early days. And the most poignant and telling piece of advice I’ve ever been given was by my co-founder of The Cinnamon Club Iqbal Wahhab, who told me when I first arrived in the UK that I needed to go and eat in other restaurants. It’s something I say to all the chefs I work with. It’s not like the restaurant you eat in has to be three Michelin star – you can afford to try anywhere if you don’t drink for £100! If you can’t do that, then you can spend £10 and buy a recipe book.
Who is your role model?
I have several different role models. In terms of being a chef, Simon Rogan is one of them. His approach to food is brilliant.
What ingredient can you not live without?
Salt makes everything taste better – it’s the difference between a good dish and a great dish.
Where are your favourite places to eat in London?
I rarely go back to restaurants over and over again, however I have been to Roka many times. I like to order their signature dishes – they will always put together a tasting menu for you and always have new dishes. They keep adding to the perfection of the menu.
What do you like to do on a day off?
If I’m entertaining then I cook because I like to cook. But if I’m not then I like to sit in front of the TV and while away the day flipping channels. I’m particularly fond of watching cricket.
Outside of food and drink what are your passions?
I would have loved to be a potter. I’m naturally creative and also love painting, and I’m pretty into photography too.
If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would it be?
My dad – I didn’t see him enough when he was alive. He was a conservative man and never smoke or drank. But when he came to my restaurant I was surprised that he asked for a pigeon dish and a glass of pinot noir to go with it. So I’d cook him something similar if I got to have dinner with him one more time.
Vivek Singh is one of the most successful and influential Indian chefs in the country. He is the executive chef and CEO of The Cinnamon Collection comprising The Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen, Cinnamon Bazaar, Cinnamon Kitchen Oxford and Cinnamon Kitchen Battersea. The restaurants are currently closed but check The Cinnamon Collection’s Instagram for regular recipe ideas and learn how to make Vivek Singh’s black lentils on the Brummell website here.