On approach, it becomes plain that this used to be a pub, and even still functions as one in some respects, offering a pleasant large beer garden and bar snacks at reasonable prices. It’s harder to tell once inside though as the décor and layout is open and refreshing. High ceilings well lit with windows that skirt the entire dining area the scene was set and accompanied by a light jazz soundtrack that seemed perfect for a sunny afternoon.
The main idea behind the food at Cinnamon Culture is to present Indian cookery with a more authentic, cared-for feel than your average Saturday night takeaway, and we have to say we think they pulled it off very well. The presentation of the dishes is the first thing to strike you; it holds the influence of French cuisine and the use of complementary colours and sparse garnishes make each plate look very appealing indeed. When we sat down there was already a selection (yes, a selection, not just plain) of papadums and specially made fruit chutneys, the mango especially stood out as it had that excellent bite of coriander to it. This was a theme that was set to continue throughout each dish, a theme of taking a recognisable flavour or dish but adding something more to it, an element of style and attention to detail that really paid off.
We chose the Samundari Rattan – scallops in paper-thin pastry accompanied by tamarind and grape chutney – priced at £7.55 to start. We loved it. The succulent, delicate scallops were at a perfect temperature to eat and nestled inside a crunchy nest of pastry. The chutney was divine, and had a great balance of sweet and spicy flavours that complemented the scallops really well.
We also tried the Saunfia Paneer Tikka – tandoori glazed discs of Indian cheese with fennel and raw papaya chutney – £6.75. It was creamy and elegant in texture but lacking a little in flavour and the Shakarkandi Ki Chaat; cold sweet potato served with chickpeas and dressed with tamarind and homemade yoghurt that was wonderfully light and had a lovely summery feel to it’s presentation.
The sea bass we chose as a main was pan-fried and served with a lemon coriander sauce and broad bean and pea kedgeree, priced £13.95. We had two perfectly cooked fillets of fish that had crisped up ever so slightly around the edges and we really liked the kedgeree, which was glutinous (think sticky rice) without clinging to your ribs. The only gripe was the sauce, which, whilst velvety smooth, was missing a real depth of flavour for the most part that shot into a little too much when you crunched down on one of the coriander seeds hiding within it.
The Goat Vindaloo had the requisite punch to it, but also an undercurrent of clove and aniseed that meant it had much more flavour than most of the vindaloos we have tried in the past. It was served with steamed rice and a carafe of garlic vinegar to drizzle over the top and cost £13.95.
The Chicken Chettinad (£11.95) had a novel look to it, served with a rice dosa fools cap that made it look like a large African snail. The meat inside was tender and tasted lovely, and wasn’t drowning in sauce making for a refreshing change from some Indian mains we had had in the past.
Our favourite of the side dishes was the Palak Khumb, spinach and garlic with mushrooms that both looked and tasted fantastic.
To finish, we were treated with a ginger and honey kulfi, garnished with candied beetroot and mint that settled the stomach nicely while providing the prerequisite luxury of a dessert. It was straight from the freezer, though, and was a little too solid for being served on a plate, so it was in danger of sliding into our laps.
The service was good, the right amount of attentiveness was given without being intrusive. Our waiter did keep mixing up who had ordered what though, which was a bit of an annoyance, and the attention we were paid could’ve been better given the price – recommending wines and explaining some of the more complex dishes wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The wine list is varied and interesting, it’s clear that real thought has gone into picking wines to match certain dishes too, which is highlighted in the tasting menu that you can try for £62 for five dishes and £73 for seven, with each course coming with 100ml of a specific wine. There is also an inspired selection of cocktails and mocktails, and of course the staple Cobra beer on draught.
There was much talk around our table of Indian food being pushed down the fine dining route and the successes and failures thereof, and a few names were bandied around, most notably Tamarind, England’s only Michelin-star Indian restaurant. The problem seems to be that not enough people are tempted to try higher priced Indian food though, nobody thinks that anything “new” can be done with this type of cuisine and consequently the price can be off-putting. We believe that Cinnamon Culture could easily assuage the fears of those doubting people out there and help raise the profile of good quality Indian food in the UK as the food you get for the money you pay is definitely worthwhile. It’s just a shame that it’s tucked away in Bromley, but if you’re local to that area or you feel like taking a thirty-minute train ride from Victoria, Charing Cross or London Bridge then you should go without delay.
Cinnamon Culture: 48/60
To check out Cinnamon Culture’s menu or make a reservation click here