Cinnamon Soho is the casual younger sister of Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen, opening in April 2012. It is split across two levels, seating around 75 customers when full. There are no tablecloths and the tables are quite closely packed. The upstairs room has a mirror along one wall, giving the impression of more space than there really is, but the downstairs room is a little larger, with banquette seating. There are a few wines, ranging from £16 to £64 in price, such as Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2011 at £26 for a wine that the high street sells at around £11, and Riesling Frick Vorbough 2008 at £52 for a wine that retails at around £20. Cobra and Kingfisher beer are the obvious alternative to wine.
A starter of chat (£3) was good, with spiced potatoes and crisp wheat mixed in with various chutneys (3/10). Crab cakes (£3.80) tasted of crab but the deep-fried coating was not quite crisp enough (2/10), and the same applied to a bhangla Scotch egg (£3.80), the egg with a hard centre and the outside lacking crispness (1/10). However stir-fried shrimps with curry leaf and black pepper (£6.20) were very good, carefully cooked and with reasonable quality prawns, the curry leaves in just the right proportion, the dish tasting quite fresh (4/10).
Chicken biriani (£14) was served in an iron pot, and had very good, fragrant rice. The chicken was just a touch on the dry side, but the spicing was delicate (3/10). Tandoori prawns (£17) were excellent, tender and nicely spiced, with a light coconut sauce (4/10). Bhindi (okra), often a sludgy mess in Indian restaurants, had reasonably firm texture here (3/10). The best dish of all was the black dhal (£4), cooked for 24 hours, which had really good texture and avoided the over-smoky, slightly burnt taste that can easily happen with this dish (5/10). Naans were not particularly impressive, not as light, fluffy and supple as they should be, even the second one we ordered that had presumably just been made to order (1/10). Carrot halwa was unusual, taking the form of four cylinders of carrot that had been fried, with cinnamon ice cream. The crispy outside of the carrot did not seem beneficial to me, and I would have preferred a classical halwa (1/10).
Service was friendly but shambolic. It was hard to get the attention of waiters, who appeared to be making themselves busy, so perhaps there were just not enough staff, but attention span also seemed an issue. Additional drinks took a long time to arrive, and more than once needed reminders. Getting a second naan bread took three attempts before it finally turned up. Obtaining and paying the bill was another trial. When we went to collect our coats there was no system so the waiter had no idea whose coat was which, and we went through the rack to identify them ourselves. Our bags had been dispatched elsewhere, and the waiter disappeared at that point, leaving us to find another waiter to retrieve the bags. This is all quite surprising, as the service quality at Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen is high; I know this is a more casual format, but this was a mess by any standards. The bill showed that our waiter’s name was Jesus, but this service was less than miraculous. The meal came to £46 a head and included service, a wise move on their part if this evening was anything to go by, as I imagine few customers would be in a wildly generous mood if the service charge had not already been extricated. This was a pity as the food was generally very good, and the price not excessive if hardly a bargain.