Cinnamon Kitchen, on top of the Westgate and with views out over the spires, is one of my favourite places to eat.

But our most recent trip was not any ordinary dinner... it was far more educational than that.

Executive chef Vivek Singh was hosting an evening showcasing the delicate art of pairing wine with spice. An intriguing and unusual proposition indeed. A few wine & spice evenings had taken place at the Cinnamon Club in London (Vivek owns four establishments in the capital) but this was the first in Oxford – his only restaurant beyond the M25.

The nights consist of five courses being paired with a carefully selected wine.

This one was hosted by Vivek and his chief wine buyer for the Cinnamon Group, Laurent Chaniac – who calls himself Vivek’s ‘partner in crime’.

Their passion and the time they had taken to craft the menu and pairings was clear. Vivek posed the question, ‘how do you pair a wine with curry? Beer is so good, so why even bother?’ We were about to discover.

We were together in an intimate group on a large U-shaped table. Vivek and Laurent enthusiastically described the flavours of each dish and wine, keen to answer any questions and gaining our feedback. An instruction we particularly enjoyed was to taste the wine, taste the food, taste the wine, then see the chemistry between.

Oxford Mail:

Our first course was papdi chaat. Inspired by an Indian street food dish, we were astounded to learn it had 35 ingredients, all presented as a rather small looking morsel to get us started.

A melange of flavours, a lightness and freshness, accompanied by Picpoul de Pinet, Mas Puech, Coteaux du Languedoc, which beautifully complimented the dish with grapefruit, white flowers, citrus, green apple and melon flavours with a yoghurt, lemon, coriander and mint dressing as well as bitter tamarind cutting through the dish and wine.

Next, corn and fenugreek kebab with roasted tomato chutney. This was paired with an Argentinian white, Torrontes Pasarisa. From Salta, the grapes are grown at high altitude meaning humid days and cool nights giving acidity and earthiness. The fenugreek provided a herbaceous, grassy background. At this point our taste buds were gagging for more.

Up next was stir fried shrimp with chilli and apricot glaze, paired with Vinho Verde Branco Conde Villar, a Portuguese sparkling white with notes of apricot, citrus and white flowers providing an acidic kick to go with the natural sweetness of the prawns.

Our penultimate dish and wine was firecracker chicken wings with sesame and honey. The wine pairing was Shiraz Mourvedre The Hustman Journey’s End Stellenbosh SA 2017. This was absolutely our favourite wine of the evening. Rich black peppercorn and blackberry working beautifully with the sweet, spicy, nuttiness of the firecracker wings. Delicious. We also managed to get a sneaky extra glass of our favourite wine. Winner.

Oxford Mail:

Lastly was a lamb biryani with raita paired with an Argentinian Malbec (our usual favourite). The Malbec had flavours of ripe plum, hint of chocolate and a round mouth-feel. The biryani flavours of smoky paprika, garlic, pomegranate and yoghurt providing a cacophony of aromatic, sweet, sugar, heat, smoky, spicy flavours. These chaps really do know their stuff.

We not only loved the food and wine (obviously) but also that we were certainly learning, discovering new flavours and wines we’ve never encountered before and a deeper understanding of how wine actually seasons dishes.

The concept is wonderful; making wine and spice more accessible in a less formal way – more wine, less food.

We definitely left with very full bellies, our mouths alive with the taste of spice and a pleasantly fuzzy wine feeling. Oh, and we were much more knowledgeable about all things wine and spice!

  • Eat: Cinnamon Kitchen is on the roof terrace of the Westgate, Oxford.
  • Book: Reserve at
  • The wine & spice evening costs £30pp for five courses with wine pairing. Check the website for future events
  • Parking: Use the Westgate car park - which is surprisingly reasonable by Oxford standards.
  • Try: If you are visiting on a normal night, still allow Cinamon Kitchen’s sommeliers to guide your wine choices to match your menu. It’s a transformative experience.