Restaurant Review: The Cinnamon Tree, EC1
To me, a good curry is like an old friend - familiar, welcoming, someone you can trust and have spent many a good times with - so visiting new pilau purveyor always fills me with a mixture a excitement and trepidation.
Luckily the Cinnamon Tree, in Exmouth Market, has garnered a good reputation since opening last year, so I felt I was on fairly steady ground.
A stroll down the market of an evening is always a joy; fairy lights twinkle above you and the quiet burble from restaurants and bars spills out into the night air, so I was in a happy, contemplative mood as we stepped through the doors into the blue lit eaterie.
As tradition demands, poppadoms were ordered almost before the drinks, and these crisp little beauties were accompanied by some of the most well-presented pickles I have ever clapped eyes on, which either kicked like a mule or soothed the palette, as indeed they should.
Perusing the rest of the menu revealed a good choice, and a healthy split between classics, new takes on old themes and dishes I had never tried before.
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With a few pointers from the ever helpful waiting staff, we plumped for a mixture of all three, starting with duck tikka. An unusual meat for the purpose, I would say, but far from unpleasant as the dark, rich flavour provided a good counterpoint to the invigorating spices.
Alongside this was the tandoori mix platter, including salmon, lamb, chicken and prawn, the latter of which was truly awe-inspiring. Fully the size of a kraken, it was split and twirled into the shape of an organic spaceship. Juicy and fibrous, I could have eaten it all day. Also worthy of a mention was the salmon, which provided the lively culinary spectacle of a tandoori fighting a losing battle against fishy essence (although the salmon was so fishy it contaminated the chicken sat next to it).
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After that, we went for something more traditional; a good old-fashioned chicken rogan josh. This one didn’t disappoint, with chunks of barbecued tomato swimming with tender chicken pieces in a sauce flavoured by aromatic whole spices. I tend to think one measure of good Indian food is if you can easily differentiate between the main dishes, and that was certainly the case here
Finally, the king prawn pardashi, based around more of those hair-rasing crustaceans, with garlic, green peepers and Bengali spices. The outcome was a rich, medium hot and thoroughly tasty. Also scattered amongst our table was various rices, naans, and the soft, handsome lumps or potato elegantly dressed in spinach that make up a saag aloo. Everything was in place.
Pausing only to tackle a bit of pudding (a furious ball of meringue and ice cream coated in nuts), and swallow a brandy, we made our way into the summer night, replete and safe in the knowledge that a top notch Indian has been added to Farringdon’s roster.