The Soho branch of any organisation is always likely to be the kooky cousin – aloof, elusive, vibrant – and Cinnamon Soho is far from an exception. Spawned from Vivek Singh’s culinary empire, of which Cinnamon Club in Westminster is the crown jewel, Cinnamon Soho presents itself as a ‘younger, cheekier sibling’ to the Club’s wise seniority. And just to prove its youthfulness, Cinnamon Soho participated in the London Restaurant Festival, offering a discounted set-menu for impudent bon vivants everywhere. The time to pay a visit to this popular haunt had finally come.
Thrillingly, my evening at Cinnamon Soho began when I managed to misunderstand where it was, an error which led to me wandering around Leicester Square for half an hour looking for a restaurant that simply wasn’t there. Sensibly I decided to give them a call and ask for directions, and Cinnamon Soho became the first restaurant to provide fantastic customer service before I’d even arrived. Helpful staff gave me concise directions, gracefully taking my repeated calls until, after around three-quarters of an hour, I finally made it. This was one meal I’d certainly earned. Sort of.
Fortunately, the good service didn’t end there. The staff were very busy – it was filling up by the time we got there – but, managed by the welcoming, hospitable and capable Helen Geach, every table was served efficiently and with good grace. We were led down to our table in the basement floor, a breezy and quietly sophisticated dining area upholstered with sleek wood panelling and in-built light features. It was like dining out in the trendy urban pad of one of the more reputable Bond villains, thankfully without the atmosphere of choreographed hostility.
Our set menu deal was a straightforward bargain – two courses for £10 – and happily was not the shamefaced assortment of the chef’s least interesting dishes as it can sometimes be. The green pea kachori fritters, which arrived floating daintily in a shallow pool of soured cream, were beautifully presented and tasted fantastic. Thick and creamy pea puree, seasoned and wrapped in a crisp pastry, moistened by the cool sauce and garnished with chopped tomatoes: light, fresh and moreish. It’s not going to fill anyone up, but hey, it’s an appetiser.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Keralan chicken ‘ishtu’ with coconut vinegar, but I was surprised at how mild and inoffensive it was. Typically for a curry with a coconut milk base, it was rich without being heavy – yet the tang of the vinegar struggled to come through, leaving the sauce a little lacking. Aromatic and plentiful, the rice was perfectly steamed and the chicken cuts generous and moist – but it was almost as though something was being held back. It felt, dare I say it, a little too Anglicised, as though Lloyd Grossman had somehow found his way into the kitchen midway through the dish’s completion and turned up the beige-factor. It was enjoyable enough.
Dessert was Cinnamon Soho at its best – measured, creative and playful. The carrot halwa roll was delicate but spicy (in a good way, like a festive pudding) and was placed with the perfect partner in the shape of an ivory-coloured scoop of cinnamon ice-cream. Together, the carrot and cinnamon were excellent, creating a complex yet familiar taste: proof that fusion cuisine, so often derided for being inauthentic and showy, can provide homely flavours with intriguing twists. There’s room for all kinds of cooking in the world, and Cinnamon Soho’s Anglo-Indian fusion food is laid-back, sophisticated and unpretentious all at once. Highly recommended.
5 Kingly Street
Tel: 020 7437 1664