15 April 2014 - Cinnamon Garden: Off the beaten track
Ever the pioneers, we took a punt on this Tooting newbie. So new, in fact, that Google hadn’t even found it yet, but that didn’t stop us putting it on the map. As with many new discoveries, Cinnamon Garden can be found on the path less travelled, in this instance about half way between Tooting Broadway and Tooting station on the Mitcham Road. This was new territory to Tom and me so we had our wits about us. However, for some reason Tom was dragging a pink carry on bag around with him and as a result we were drawing a lot of unwanted attention. So much so, we ducked in to the Long Room for a cheeky pre-poppadom pint and to regain some dignity and composure. Once these were sunk we ventured to the Garden, Tom still shamelessly with the aforementioned, lady’s bag still in tow.
Situated away from the high street, Cinnamon Garden is always going to suffer from low footfall. Despite reassurance from our host that weekends are busy, on our visit we were the only diners for most of our stay. It’s a good job then that the sole menu available wasn’t in high demand. Yes, that’s right, I said ONE menu. As absurd as that sounds, I’m not joking. It wasn’t a special menu either, it was an A4 piece of paper that had seen better days. It looked like it had been folded in the waiter’s pocket all day, a really sorry sight indeed. One can only assume that, being a new restaurant, the leather bound menus hadn’t arrived yet, either that or the ink in the colour printer had run out.
Aside from the dearth of menus the rest of the restaurant was relatively pleasant. A new lick of lime green paint (which seems to be the local curry house colour of the month) coats the walls along with a tasteful mural of a Sri Lankan palace veranda. Elsewhere, bright paintings fill the spaces around a full length mirror adorning the left hand wall.
The furniture seems a bit out of sort with incongruously black, red and white chairs tucked around wood finish tables suggesting a misplaced order or IKEA stock issues. On the contrary, the tins of pop (including both 7UP , Sprite, Pepsi and Coke) were well ordered in the fridge counter at the back, but they also proved to be an indicator of the no alcohol policy.
All in all, despite its diminutive size airing on the side of cute, we have to mark this place down for its far flung location, lack of customers and menu shortage. It’s also fallen into the trap of the Spice + Location naming convention which I can’t decide whether I like or not. Either way, it’s a 5/10.
Sides and Starters
2 Potato parathas
We were slightly nervous about what was coming next following Menu-gate and the poppadoms left us even more doubtful about our decision to venture so far away from the Upper Tooting Road. These were the worst poppadoms we've had yet and undoubtedly of the microwave variety. Luckily they were redeemed by some fresh potato parathas and reasonable coconut rice that came with out mains. In hindsight, it may be that poppadoms aren’t their preferred offering, but then don’t put it on the menu…the only menu. 5/10.
It’s fair to say, by this point we weren’t too hopeful about the mains, especially as the range of choice was limited. Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised. Being the only customers seemed to be to our advantage as all the dishes were freshly made. So much so that the chicken kothu was the best we’ve had as a result. The portion was also pretty sizeable given its extremely low price. The aubergine curry was similarly decent with a good creamy texture while the prawn curry had a pleasant kick from the mix of Sri Lankan spices and tamarind. However, there are certainly more textured and unique dishes elsewhere. The generic curry names are perhaps a reflection of this. Whilst not disappointed we weren’t left raving. 6/10.
Despite not speaking a word of the Queen’s, our host was a very affable chap. He was as quick to apologise for the lack of menus as he was to ask us if everything was alright with our meal. Being one of few staff we’ve come across to offer spontaneous chit chat, we have to look on him kindly. 7/10.
Value For Money
Coming in at £18.50 it was amongst the cheapest curry we’ve consumed. To give you an idea, the prawn curry was the most expensive thing on the menu at £5. We left stuffed for under £10 each, proving our walk to Cinnamon Garden to be worth it after all (and a decent bit of post-feed exercise). Poppadoms aside this was an absolute bargain – 8/10.
This was never going to be top of our list when we started out on this curry adventure (not least because it didn’t exist back then), but it’s not to be walked past (if indeed you do at all).
The kothu was the standout dish and given the low low price, it’s worth popping into the Cinnamon Garden just to give it a try. I believe they do takeaway too, although the lack of physical menus seems to have made its way online making ordering slightly difficult, for now at least.
So, if you can find this place and can find the means to order then do so, if not, please at least confirm to me that it exists and that I didn’t just make all of this up. 31/50
Address: 186 Mitcham Road, London SW17 9NJ, England
Cuisine: Sri Lankan
Alcohol Policy: BYOB
Summary: Cheap and cheerful curry, but now sadly closed.