Having been impressed by the cooking demonstration given by Vivek Singh at Taste of Christmas 2012, I needed to investigate his restaurants. I was particularly interested in his third venture, Cinnamon Soho, which in Singh’s words is “the younger, trendier sibling” of Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen. It strives for a casual atmosphere and serves up some interesting fusion cooking. In other words, it sounded pretty exciting!
We arrived at just before 1pm to find the restaurant alarmingly empty, with only a couple of parties dining. The inside is modern and swish – dark wood and plain furniture. It didn’t exactly exude homeliness but its simplicity gave it some charm – it hovered on just the right side of minimalism.
A waiter approached us and I asked him the question that had been gnawing away at me.
“Excuse me, could tell me what exactly are your balls?”
Yes, really. These were promoted by Time Out as one of London’s 100 best dishes of 2012. But what are balls? How are the various fillings – ranging from crab to potatoes – put into balls?
I don’t think I fully understood the response, but my friend and I were determined to have them anyway. The options are 4 of the same kind, or 10 of 5 different kinds. We took the latter (£9.00) and were presented with this beautiful tray of…well…balls. Our answer appeared to be light breadcrumbs!
We began with the Crab Cake, which was surprisingly unfishy. Moving on, we tackled the rather spicy Potato Bondas, which went well with the coriander chutney. We found that the Vegetable Shikampur was deliciously gooey in the centre.
The Bangla Scotch Egg was a disappointment, which was a shame because the British/Indian fusion concept is really interesting. The breadcrumbs were fantastically crunchy but the flavours didn’t work together and the aniseed overpowered everything.
However, the wild game – rabbit and pigeon – with pumpkin chutney was out of this world! I admit I did wrinkle my nose at the sound of this, convinced that wild game wouldn’t be for me. But the meat was perfectly seasoned with cumin and other spices, it wasn’t too dry or too chewy, and the sweetness of the pumpkin gave a vibrancy to every mouthful.
Our waiter was aware of our fondness for food and was keen to hear our impressions, agreeing that the wild game ball was particularly good. We weren’t sure whether to feel sorry for him – given the emptiness of the restaurant, our discussion of dating disasters must have been floating through the air. But then again, maybe he appreciated the entertainment. (Our conversation was very sophisticated and went along the lines of: as there are no guys on our course, maybe we should try to become attracted to Asian females?)
For the mains, we took advantage of the Lunch Express Menu. We tried the Bhangra Burgers (£6.75) – described as a “trio of spiced lamb sliders served with…tomato chutney, green coriander and smoked chilli & garlic chutney”. These were a lot of fun to eat. The buns were soft and not too heavy, the lamb tasty, and the chutneys were great – although the flavours could have been a little bolder.
We also devoured the Kingly Seekh Kebab Roll (£6.50). Again the lamb was beautifully spiced and tender, and the naan roll was soft and not at all dry, despite appearances.
The food was so good that our gluttony did not stop there. We shared a Chocolate and Cumin Cake with Pistachio Ice-Cream (£5.50). The chocolate cake was like a very gooey brownie, and its richness was nicely offset by the pistachio ice-cream. I had been worried that the cumin and/or pistachio would have been overpowering, but the flavours blended seamlessly together. Dare I say that they were perhaps a little too subtle? Possibly, but it was a fantastic dessert and I would order it again.
All in all, our bill came to £31.22 (including service), which meant that we enjoyed a top-quality three-course meal for just £15.61 each. Wow.
Also, on their lunch menu is a £7.50 Rapid Lunch, which includes: curry of the day, vegetable fritter, chutney, raita, salad, pilau rice, garlic naan, lentils and stir-fried vegetables. How much of a bargain is that?
Cinnamon Soho – 4.5/5
Interesting and delicious modern Indian cuisine at reasonable prices. What more could you want?
5 Kingly street | London W1B 5PF