This regal looking restaurant in the backstreets of Bromley is definitely worth a visit if quality Indian food and exotic ingredients are your thing.
‘Serene’ best describes the décor — this grand building’s previous incarnation as a pub of dubious repute is indiscernible. Sleek black and cool cream create a chic dining room, with spotless white napery and elegant chandeliers. Light pours in through vast windows, but it would be a warm and comforting space in winter, too.
On an early evening in high summer, however, Cinnamon Culture is flooded with light — heavy rain, alas, means that no one is sitting in the charming garden. The restaurant, while busy, is not full, so the ambience is chilled rather than buzzing. There are tables of couples and foursomes and the charming waiting staff flit between them with efficient aplomb.
This is Indian food, but not as we know it, with a menu featuring classic dishes given a modern twist or two - as evidenced in the ‘khatte bater ka seena’ (£6.75), or tamarind-glazed tandoori quail, a not-oft seen, velvet-soft meat with subtle spices. The dish comprises two breasts of quail served on lightly spiced bubble and squeak - and very good it is too. But quail isn’t to everyone’s taste, so go for the CS Cinnamon grill (£8.15), a selection of tasty chicken and lamb kebabs, none of which is mind-blowingly hot, but all are impressively spiced, and served with a cooling mint sauce.
Buffalo farming in the UK is on the increase. Water buffalo are placid, gentle creatures and are easy to look after — they lack the group aggression of cattle and are good ‘doers’ on poor forage. On the minus side, they are liable to crash through fences to reach water. But their meat is lean, lower in fat than beef and higher in Omega-3, as well as being BSE-free.
It appears on the menu at Cinnamon Culture as ‘las maas’ — clove-smoked buffalo, served with buttered rice (£13.85). The plateful of buffalo is dauntingly huge — it would easily serve two people - and that is its only fault. The meat is thinly sliced (rather than cubed), astonishingly tender and with masses of flavour. In India, where the water buffalo is king, it is referred to as ‘beef’; to the Hindu, the cow is sacred, but not so the water buffalo. However, the taste is more akin to venison and the rich sauce in which it is served enhances, rather than overwhelms, the meat.
The coconut lamb (£12.95), served with tomato rice, is also excellent. The coconut is not strong, but lends a delicate sweetness to the luscious lamb. The tomato rice has a hint of sharpness that complements the meat splendidly.
After all that, you may not think you have room for pudding, but it’s worth letting out your belt, because Cinnamon Culture puts its special spin on old favourites. So a classic crème brûlée (£6.55) is flavoured with coconut and served with a sesame seed ‘brittle’, to contrast with the silken cream. Cumin may not be the obvious spice to go with chocolate — cardamom is the more usual pairing — but it adds a background hint, as subtle as an echo, to the rich, dark fondant (£6.45), served with vanilla ice cream. It needs nothing further.
Do cocktails go with Indian cuisine? It’s a moot point, because Cinnamon Culture’s cocktail list is so exciting it would be a tragedy not to try at least one. As well as the classics, it includes a Pear and Cardamom Sidecar, combining Cointreau, lemon juice, pear and cardamom syrup; Saffron Garden, with saffron gin, lemon, jasmine syrup, apple and elderflower (all £8), and the exotic-sounding Golden Orb, a blend of vodka, Cointreau and mango (£7.95).
The winelist, too, offers some delights, including an exuberant Stonewalker Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a bargain at £19.95; a deliciously clean Santa Serena Sauvignon Blanc from Chile (exceptional value at £16.75), and a beguiling McGuigan Black Label Gewurztraminer Riesling from Australia (£23), whose aromatics complement perfectly the spicy food.
The Last Word
Buffalo not your thing? Don’t worry, you’ll find something similarly excellent from Cinnamon Culture’s extensive, innovative and impressively put-together menu.