24 Jun 2014

Rayyan's

3 June 2014 - Rayyan’s: Gosling down the curry


When we heard that Manchester United and Wales footballing legend, Ryan Giggs had opened up a restaurant in Tooting, called Ryan’s we thought it must be a lie.

It was.

When instead we heard that, rather than being a gastronomic venture by an ex-professional sportsman, Rayyan’s was a spin off from the guys behind Mirch Masala, the truth could not have been more welcome.

Then, when we heard that Rayyan’s is BYO we just had to get down there and check it out.

We were joined again by Liam who, for his third outing with us, gets… absolutely nothing.

Here’s what we thought.

Venue

This is another relatively new restaurant that has cropped up along Mitcham Road, away from the livelier High Road. Whilst this area of Tooting doesn’t traditionally draw the curry crowd, Rayyan’s may soon buck the trend. By their own bold claim they are ‘Pioneers of karahi’, a tag which not only suits their borderline location, but also the fresh look and feel of the restaurant.

Space is often at a premium in local curry houses, but at Rayyan’s tasteful uplighting and contemporary art brighten white walls and give the restaurant a light and airy feel. Whilst the low number of diners may have helped build this illusion there was certainly a more relaxed vibe, almost Mediterranean villa-esque. The brown leather furniture is also a bit more upmarket from the standard IKEA cheap seats found elsewhere and tasteful Indian pop adds a touch of authenticity.

All in all, a very pleasant addition to the scene and it even has its own TV advert (see Rayyan’s Facebook page) which deserves recognition. 8/10.

Starters and sides

Popadoms
Tandori mixed grill
Garlic naan
Kulcha naan
Peshwari naan
Two pilau rice



The popadoms to start with were average, but the accompanying salad was atypically fresh and a sign of better things to come. This came in the form of a deliciously juicy tandoori mixed grill which, as fate would have it, had three of each item; one kebab, chicken tikka, lamb tikka and lamb chop for each of us.

Tom then went naan mad (once again) and ordered a garlic, a kulcha and a peshwari naan to go with two pilau rice in some sort of carb loading frenzy. The garlic was slightly over done and all three weren’t as fluffy and light as can be found elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, whilst decent, the volume defeated us in the end, but this isn’t factored into the score of 7 out of 10, driven up by the succulent mixed grill.

7/10

Curry

Karahi Fish
Shank Murg Chana
Afghan Karahi Lamb



We followed a recommendation on the Afghan Karahi lamb and it didn’t disappoint. Whilst not as sizeable as Namak Mandi’s offering the flavours did match and a bite into the on-the-bone pieces revealed an irresistibly pink and tender centre.

The Shahi Murgh Chana was chosen on name alone and despite this relatively fancy label, this lentil based dish was rather non-descript. However, the Karahi Fish was out of this world. The fish almost melted into the curry on your fork creating a taste sensation, one of the best curries we've had; no visit should exclude it.

8/10.

Service

The guys here were friendly and very attentive. It may have been driven by a sparse Tuesday night crowd and our lingering presence, but they continually asked us if everything was ok. A vainer man might think it was due to our growing local celebrity, but I’m sure the reality was that they just wanted us to hurry up and leave. However, they did invite us to stick around just a little while longer with free kulfi – a nice touch that was greatly appreciated and which increases our service rating. 8/10.

Value For Money

At £48 for three, this isn’t the cheapest venue, but we did over do the naan order and £16 each for the feast we had was more than fair. Plus, when you throw in the free ice cream and BYO this is certainly good value. 7/10.

Summary

Overall, this slightly more premium offering from the guys behind Mirch Masala ticks all our boxes and has made us think twice about sticking to the well-trodden path of Tooting High Street. The curries may look a pound or two more and you can find better naans, but the contemporary surrounds and option to bring your own alcohol make this a place well worth adding to any Tooting curry fan’s hit list. This sentiment is reflected in our overall score of 38/50 placing Rayyan’s firmly in the Champions League spots of our leaderboard, something Giggsy himself would envy right now.



26 Apr 2014

Cinnamon Garden

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.

Venue

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 Poppadoms
Coconut rice
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.

Curry

Prawn Curry
Aubergine Curry
Chicken Kothu

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.

Service

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.

Summary

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