Tucked away on Kingly Street, a short walk from the bustling crossroads of Oxford Circus, lies a small Indian eatery with a trendy name and a reputation for good food and chai. Only the lamb and chicken are halal here. Alcohol is served.
I’ve visited Cinnamon Soho on one occasion. They had run out of lamb supplies, so I ordered their Old Delhi-style chicken curry, black dhaal, garlic naan, and my friend and I ordered the colis chocolate and the sticky ginger and carrot toffee pudding for dessert, topped off with Masala chai.
The Old Delhi chicken curry consisted of medium-sized chicken pieces and a small side of rice, in a wonderfully thick and creamy curry gravy, that had a perfectly smooth and consistent texture. The chicken was very well-cooked and retained a satisfying level of moisture and tenderness. Most of the flavours were packed into the curry itself, which was sweet and aromatic, evident of a blend of yoghurt and cream with the masala. The rice meanwhile was moist and soft, though a slightly larger helping would have been nice. Then again maybe that’s just my roots speaking. Bengalis are used to eating a bucket of rice. Though I’m not as bad as my forefathers. They could eat enough rice to become diabetic in one sitting.
The black dhaal had a moderate consistency, neither thick nor runny, and a sizeable strength in terms of flavour. Nowhere close to say Dishoom’s black dhaal, but great enough in it’s own right. It goes without saying that the dhaal and the garlic naan went hand in hand to complement one another. The garlic naan was fairly soft and moist, (not the softest naan I’ve had), but then it didn’t immediately turn to granite once it started to cool down, which was a good trade-off. The hint of garlic was present in mild moderation, not overly strong (which I like, but most people seem to enjoy a milder hint).
The colis chocolate consisted of – err, well, four chocolates. I must’ve not been reading the menu properly because I was expecting a chocolate-based dessert rather than actual chocolates. And I’m not overly excited by chocolate desserts either, so in hindsight I wasn’t really sure why I ordered it. Oh well. There was a milk chocolate, a dark chocolate, and two white chocolates, and all were very rich indeed.
I also sampled half of my friend’s sticky ginger and carrot toffee pudding, which consisted of a sticky ginger toffee cake with banana ice cream, carrot halwa, and a piece of caramelised sesame seeds. A very interesting dessert indeed. The cake was moist and sticky in texture, and sweet with a strong and sharp hint of ginger. Combined with the moderately strong flavour of the banana ice cream, the soft, warm halwa and the crunchy, sticky and sweet sesame, you’re left being struck by a variety of contrasting yet complementary tastes and textures that hit your senses from a variety of different angles. The sesame seed “snaps” alone will trigger nostalgia for anyone from a South Asian background who inevitably would have grown up with them.
Unfortunately, the Masala chai was not as pleasing as the rest of the food. The spices totally imbalanced, with the cardamom taking complete control of the beverage and was the dominant and solely detectable flavour. This essentially made the chai undrinkable. Cardamon is only pleasant in chai as a mild essence. For those of you who have bitten into one in a curry, you’ll know that as a direct flavour, it’s essentially nature’s emetic drug. If you need to carry out an emergency stomach pump, give someone a bowl of cardamon to chew. Avoid the chai, it’s just not worth it.
Apologies again for the poor photo quality – this was another restaurant I visited whilst my phone was being repaired.
Value For Money: 3/5
Prices are fairly reasonable given the location, though portions could be a little bigger. My friend and I ordered from the lunch menu which was considerably cheaper, at £9.75 for two courses, (or £11.75 for three). Otherwise, with the A La Carte menu, you’re looking at £5-£7 for starters, £11-£17 for mains, around £5 for dessert. Fairly reasonable still. Just avoid their so-called “Masala chai”. That’s £8 worth of unwanted cardamon juice my friend and I will never be able to reclaim.
Service is pleasant, but not spectacular. A little bit more warmth would have been nice, (and no that doesn’t mean I wanted a hug).
Cinnamon Soho is a fairly decent looking medium-sized restaurant with an almost-modern decor and woodern furniture and floors. Good for a casual lunch or dinner, perhaps not for a special occasion. It’s located on Kingly Street, just outside the Kingly Street entrance to Kingly Court, a fairly brief 10 minute walk from Oxford Circus station. Not too difficult to find if you know the area or have a map application of some sort. Parking in Oxford Circus is more or less non-existent of course, unless you want to enter a Gladiator tournament with bus-drivers and ticket-inspectors.
Not much of an atmosphere here if I’m honest. Despite the fairly nice interior, there’s not much of an ambience. Pin-drop silence whilst you wonder if anyone is listening to your conversation for the most part. Maybe I’m just an undiagnosed Paranoid-Schizophrenic. It would make sense as to why so many of my “friends” are Psychologists who want me to take part in their dissertation experiments. I worry I’m just a human lab rat being fattened up for the kill.
Overall, Cinnamon Soho is a pleasant restaurant with humble and flavoursome Indian food. Whilst there are better Indian restaurants out there, Cinnamon Soho does very well for itself. It’s just a shame that I left with the taste of liquid cardamon in my mouth. Stick to the food.