The best exotic Indian Food Al Fresco
Review by Janine Pulford
When the English summer triumphs, what better way to dine than outside watching the sun go down?
The decking area at Cinnamon Lounge is so inviting that even if it’s only a cool beer or a G&T and some Indian tapas you want, this unique restaurant, set in the depths of the tiny Dorset village of Woodlands can oblige.
Award-winning chef Alam Bodrul and his team not only produce some of the finest Indian food around, but do so in a sumptuous setting, with hospitality to match.
As well as offering exotic chef’s specials and traditional staff curries, you’ll spot all the usual favourites on the menu.
Meals are prepared fresh in the busy kitchen, which has a top hygiene rating of 5, so if you want more – or less – heat, just ask, and the chef will be happy to cater to your taste.
When Carol and I called in one Sunday evening for a meal, the restaurant was busy and food was brought out literally sizzling to the tables. The aromas soon had us picking our meals and rather than sticking to the standard curries, we decided to go for something much more adventurous.
With a G&T in hand, Carol chose a Lamb Tikka starter and my iced water with lemon looked equally demure as I selected Sobzi Puree, which was a combination of mixed vegetables cooked in bhuna sauce and wrapped in a pancake.
Portion sizes were ample considering we had already eaten three poppadams with a delicious assortment of house chutneys. The pancake was very unusual and I couldn’t resist smothering it in fresh lemon. Carol praised her Lamb Tikka as “really delicious.” Flavours zinged from the outset, setting us up for the main courses of King Prawn Sag Salom and Mango Chicken, which we agreed to share.
We also shared the pilau rice, bringal bhaji (aubergines) and coconut and chilli rice. The king prawns were more like baby lobsters and Alam told me they come from Bangladesh. They were cooked perfectly and melted in the mouth in a rich spinach sauce, flavoured with ground spices including star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and garlic. These intense flavours are a feature at Cinnamon Lounge, being typical ingredients of the popular staff curries.
Lovers of spinach will appreciate Sobzi Puree, as will those who prefer a milder heat. The mango chicken more than made up for it though. Said to be prepared in a mild, creamy coconut sauce, it had a kick to it and pepped up the evening nicely. The sauce was really smooth and one of the most sublime I have tasted – Carol was struck by it too. Tender chicken strips mixed with mango was more than an engagement of flavours, it was a full-blown marriage.
Both rice dishes were superb. Light and fluffy. The coconut and chilli went well with the prawns and the pilau was paired beautifully with the chicken. The aubergine dish was rather greedy of us as we didn’t really need it, but it complemented the chicken and mango. It didn’t pair quite so well with the prawn dish and I found a squirt of lemon was needed.
We ate almost everything – a disappointment, I am sure, for Carol’s husband, who was hoping that any leftovers would be taken home!
As for dessert, a chocolate orange bomb and mango kulfi might well have been our choices if we had room, but instead we enjoyed a Baileys on ice.
When dining at Cinnamon Lounge, don’t expect instant service unless you have pre-booked a takeaway. Food is prepared fresh and is well worth the wait. You won’t feel rushed or hurried in this restaurant, rather a valued customer who is given every opportunity to enjoy the complete dining experience.
Although the restaurant is remote, the delicious food and beautiful setting is worth the journey, parking is easy and there is plenty of it.
A lunch time menu is also available and when the sun shines, you can enjoy your meal outside.
Monday night is Balti Night with a 3-course menu at £11.95 and Banquet Night is on Wednesday with 5 courses for £13.95. The restaurant comfortably seats 76 and this increases to 120 for those wanting to book the whole restaurant for a buffet. And don’t forget that outdoor space, which will accommodate even more for those who like to eat al fresco.
For more feedback, visit tripadvisor.co.uk where you will find over 100 excellent reviews, and to book your table call 01202 820620.