Cinnamon Soho, Oxford Circus

Now I’m a sucker for afternoon tea, I mean who isn’t? I’ve got a huge list of afternoon tea experiences that I am slowly ploughing through, I just can’t get enough! I get through about 5 cups of tea a day MINIMUM. And for me, nothing beats the traditional chai that mum makes at home. So when I heard about ‘High Chai’ – a take on afternoon tea with an added twist at Cinnamon Soho, I was beyond excited! The menu promised me all the treats of an afternoon tea but with an Indian twist, and the pictures on the website looked lush, so I made it a MUST on my ‘to-do’ list for summer.

Cinnamon Soho is tucked away close to Carnaby Street, so the location got a definite thumbs up from me. What a better way to indulge during a shopping break? So that’s exactly what I did! Away from the hustle bustle of the streets, myself and my fellow diners were greeted at the door and taken to our table. To be quite honest I was disappointed by the surroundings, it was 3pm (High Chai runs from Monday – Saturday; 3-5.30pm), and the place appeared dim and dingy. The decor looked far too drab for what you would expect when having afternoon tea. The seats were wooden, hard and cafe-esque and the tables looked like kitchen worktops. For myself personally, I would expect the afternoon tea experience to be affiliated with a sense of luxury. And although I do understand that this was on the lower end with regards to price of the experience, I would have still expected it to be look better for a restaurant with a reasonably good reputation.

Regardless of my initial disappointment, I was hopeful that the food would make up for the lack of wow factor with regards to decor. Our waiter came over and asked us what tea we would like, they had a choice of green, assam, earl grey, silver needle or indian masala chai. We all opted for the latter as we thought that this would be most fitting for the experience.

Unfortunately, it took over 30 minutes for our tea to be served, and considering we had booked our table beforehand, I found this to be very disappointing. Another let down for me was the way in which the tea was served. The website showed pictures of the tea being served in traditional pots and then poured into dinky little glass cups, but in reality we were given a plain metal jug and white ceramic tea cups. This put a further damper on the whole thing for me because like I said previously, afternoon tea isn’t just about the food, it’s about the whole experience. I was promised a ‘fresh take on tradition’, but these little inconsistencies were ruining it.

Despite my complaints, the indian masala chai was good. Spicy, milky, creamy, sweet, infused with fragrant ginger and cardamon, just like I would have expected it to be. We were given one jug between the four of us, just enough for one cup each. Most of the other places I’ve been to usually provide you with at least one jug between two (so that each diner gets at least two cups of tea), but unfortunately it was just the one jug between all of four of us so we had to order another because it simply wasn’t enough (especially considering how long we had to wait between being served our tea and being served our food).

After another wait, we finally received our food. Cinnamon Soho has a set menu for it’s High Chai experience. It included the following:

Savoury selection: 

– Bombay potato bonda and green chutney: There was nothing too memorable about this bonda (a ball of potato which is covered in gram flour and then deep fried). It was bland and a bit boring. That being said the chutney it was served with spicy and flavoursome so all in all it made a tasty little mouthful.

– Bangla Scotch egg and spicy Kasundi relish: This was my first time eating a scotch egg as I have never come across a halal one before. It was a dainty little thing, and appeared to be a quail’s egg covered in beetroot and other vegetables and spices and then covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. It was really tasty and again the spicing was on point (not too hot but really flavoursome) and the relish really complimented it well again.

– Tandoori chicken and chutney sandwich: For me this was the best thing on the menu. Absolutely delish! The chicken was so tender and perfectly spiced. The bread had been fried in butter and was crispy and rich and the chutney just complimented everything so well, it was a definite winner. It was shame it was only half of a sandwich, I could have eaten more!

– Bhangra lamb slider: Another winner, this was a mouth watering juicy lamb burger (or should I say half a burger) which again was spiced really well. The bread was a brioche bun which was soft and melted in my mouth with each bite. My fellow diners loved the Bhangra burger the most because of how juicy the lamb was and how flavoursome the burger was as a whole throughout. I usually find with burgers that the middle can be a bit dry and bland, but this was definitely not the case for the Bhangra burger!

Sweet treats:

– Ginger and garam masala cake: This was essentially a ginger cake with toffee sauce, I couldn’t taste the garam masala at all. The cake on the whole was bitter because of the ginger, as well as being dry and difficult to swallow. Even the sauce couldn’t salvage it and although I finished all of it (not a huge feat considering it was a small square of cake), I was left feeling kind of deflated as I had been expecting a lot better after the relative success of the savoury course.

– Spiced scones served with apple and fennel chutney: This was the one thing that we all left unfinished, I wouldn’t say it was inedible but it just wasn’t to our liking. The apple and fennel chutney was very harshly spiced, like how you would expect a paste when making curry to taste. It was just way too spiced and savoury tasting for something which was designed to be a dessert. I’m the kind of person who expects by sweets to be sweet and this was not a sweet treat in my mind. i tried picking at the scones but they were hard, dry and bland and needed something wet to add some flavour. This was the only point throughout the tea that I missed the traditional afternoon tea – clotted cream and strawberry jam at this point would have been ideal!

Overall I would say that the indian masala chai and the savoury selection of the High Chai Menu managed to save the day and we left feeling full and just about satisfied (maybe). At £10 a head, you really can’t expect miracles. You get what you’re paying for, and then some. Although the decor wasn’t fantastic and the service was definitely below par, I would recommend High Chai only to those avid afternoon tea fanatics who want to try something new. It’s not all that it’s promised to be, and the sweet treats definitely don’t live up to their name, but the savoury selection was really tasty and with a bargain price there’s really not that much to lose.

(Another thing I would personally advise is that if you are an afternoon tea virgin then definitely don’t choose the High Chai as your first ever afternoon tea experience. There are far better places out there, albeit they will be more pricey, but in the case of afternoon tea, I definitely think quality is the most important factor).

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Ratings

Food – 2.5/5 –  Considering that we only enjoyed half the menu, half the score seems appropriate. The Bhangra burger and Tandoori chicken sandwich were definite winners!

Service – 0.5/5 – The waiting times were excessively long, and considering there was only one other couple and one small family dining at the same time I really did think it was unacceptable. We were not attended to well and we didn’t feel cared about.

Value – 2.5/5 – I would have given a score of 3.5/5 (as 2 for £20 is good value considering how much you get as part of the meal) but as I mentioned beforehand we had to order another jug of tea which came to £12 for one jug. Quite ridiculous considering that we were only paying £10 each for the whole meal!

Venue  – 2.5/5 – Good location but the decor was drab and dreary.

SAS – 3/5 – Definitely unique I’ll give it that. Really good idea, execution wasn’t perfect but the indian masala chai and the savoury selection made the experience worthwhile!

Overall – 11.5/25

Review by: Annie

Address: Cinnamon Soho
5 Kingly street
London W1B 5PF

Telephone number: 020 7437 1664

Website: http://www.cinnamonsoho.com