Vivek Singh goes to Soho with Cinnamon

RESTAURANT CINNAMON SOHO

5 Kingly Street, W1B 5PF

FOOD ***
SERVICE ****
ATMOSPHERE ***

Cost per person without wine: £40

VIVEK Singh is one of London’s most serious restaurateurs: The Cinnamon Club in Westminster was the first of its type: a deeply elegant, quirky dining room and food to match. The Cinnamon Kitchen followed: a less characterful but still very good restaurant in the City. And now there’s Cinnamon Soho, because who can stay out of Soho these days?

The dining room isn’t strictly to my taste: it’s like Singh wants in on some of that Soho buzz but has missed the aesthetic, which is small, shabby-chic, cramped and full of natural materials. Cinnamon Soho is somewhere between flashy and functional – it could be any number of bars offering happy hour cocktails.

But the food was, in our humble books, really rather scrumptious – and always fun. First, you could be tempted by the selection of balls, written as All Balls! on the menu, which is a bit odd, especially as the exclamation mark looked like an “i”. Ballsi? I asked my friends. What’s that? They’re crab cakes, potato bandas, beef kebab and even a “bangla-scotch” egg – probably a good way to start.

Instead, we chose a warm, piquant plate of glistening roast aubergine chutney and carom seed mathri (little crackers) and some of the best chicken I’ve had in recent memory in the form of the tandoori chicken and chilli Delhi sandwich (bread-free). Tandoori salmon with green pea relish was well-balanced and refreshing – we nearly resorted to aggressive use of handbags in our haste to get the three dishes down us.

For mains, the stars are smoked saddle of Cumbrian lamb with spiced onion sauce and Old Delhi-style tandoori fenugreek chicken, but I’d heard bad things about these (too bland in the first instance, too dry in the second). Instead, I went for Keralan seafood pie (there’s a list of pies, including Roganjosh shepherd’s pie) and found it utterly delicious, a bit like a massive vol au vent overspilling with prawns and fish in an unctuous, aromatic sauce. Tandoori king prawns with curry sauce were big and powerful, though it was a small serving for the price tag (£17). Vegetable tehari, intended to counterbalance our rich tastes, was a slightly dry and unremarkable bowl of rice and veg. Don’t bother. Do, however, bother with black lentils – they’re a creamy slop containing some of the best, most robust flavours of the menu.

Desserts are not good (yet, anyway): a chocolate cake with cumin tasted curiously of meat, though it looked fabulous; a carrot halwa meant well but

only tasted sickly, and a serving of saffron ice cream was remarkable mostly for its neon yellow hue.So save yourself the calories

and stay in the heart of the menu: get in the pies, a Delhi sandwich and maybe some Balls! and you’ve got a good reason to seek Singh out in Soho.
ZS