The curry gurus who have spiced up our lives
15th August 2019
Andy Tong visits Cinnamon Square and discovers an Indian restaurant with a distinctive difference
Just as curry has seduced its way into the nation’s hearts and is now Britain’s No 1 food choice, so Cinnamon Square has become a firm favourite across a wide swathe of West Kent.
The aromatic spices and complex flavours of Indian cuisine are now part of the British consciousness. So the restaurateurs and chefs have been refining their art to take the curry house experience to a whole new level.
Nowhere in the region exemplifies this sublime process better than Cinnamon Square in Hildenborough.
Ideally situated next door to the village’s bustling railway station, it has developed a captive audience who take advantage of its proximity to their commute time and time again.
And Habib Siddiq points out that it is ideal in terms of ‘hop on, hop off’ trade, meaning diners don’t have to worry about how much they are drinking.
'Our family have been in the curry business for over 40 years, and the industry has come a long way since the 1960s'
It was where the Sankey empire began, as The Gate, but after that there was a variety of unsuccessful successors until the Cinnamon came along and changed all that.
It has been a resounding success – Habib and his wife Waheda bought the premises in 2016 – and such a geographical asset has not been taken lightly. Habib and his team have made sure that word has spread far and wide thanks to their excellence.
There is a feeling of quality as soon as you walk into the spacious entrance and a generous casual seating area that matches the layout of the restaurant itself, where there is plenty of room between the tables.
And there is a bright lightness about the pristine ambience, contrasting with the decor and illumination
in some Indian restaurants which can be oppressive.
The Cinnamon has become such a firm fixture on the local landscape that there is a real ‘family feel’ to the place. Habib tells us that 90 per cent of their custom is ‘repeat’ and the staff, while unfailingly polite and discreet, will treat you like valued friends. You are guaranteed a warm welcome if its your first time or your 50th.
This fits in with the local popularity, and also with the close-knit feel of the Cinnamon – the family have been in the restaurant business for four decades years now.
The reason customers keep coming back is, of course, the delicious food.
Sublime surprises are waiting
Make sure you don’t miss out on the starters, they are a must. The chilli fish is a stunner, unusual and full of texture as well as flavour. Pan-fried in a chilli and onion sauce, it’s very more-ish, so make sure you leave enough room for the other delights.
The Hyderabadi shish kebab, marinated in ginger and coriander, is dark and rich; the prawn puri sweet and alluring, the samosas crisp and chunky.
There’s a pleasant revelation with a skewered salmon fillet that would not have been an obvious choice but turns out to be sharp and lively across the palette.
After such a sublime start, I can’t resist trying a Cinnamon Special. It’s an odd combination of succulent, melting lamb and a drier, chargrilled chicken.
'All our produce is sourced from carefully selected suppliers, and our food is cooked to order fresh'
The blend works a treat, offering a happy contrast amid the rich, sumptuous sauce of garlic and onion.
“Our chefs come mainly from Bangladesh but they have visited various parts of India and have gained excellent knowledge of spices and how to mix and blend them,” says Habib.
“Our family have been in the curry business for over 40 years, and the industry has come a long way since the 1960s. Many restaurants like ourselves are mixing dishes from all over India and Bangladesh.”
He says the real secrets of their success are that ‘all our produce is sourced from carefully selected suppliers, and our food is cooked to order fresh.’
He adds: “We have grown from strength to strength from day one. And we have collected a few awards [from the Bangladesh Caterers Association] along the way, for best Indian restaurant in the South-east region and also for hospitality.”
One testament to the success of the Cinnamon is that you might think, coming off the train, customers would simply pop in for a takeaway.
But far from it being a case of tired commuters just wanting to bolt for home, the clientele are happy to stay and relax - and be rewarded with the feelgood factor that washes away the stresses of everyday life.
Now the reputation of this magical location has spread far and wide, and the place next to the station is very much a destination in itself on the culinary landscape.