The Cinnamon Stick

If you haven’t been to The Cinnamon Stick in Middle Barton, it serves some of the best Middle-Eastern food in Oxfordshire. Fact.

News that they have just installed a huge wood-fired oven in the new Arabian Lounge, which opened a few days ago, was reason enough to head down there pronto.

Khalid and one of his brilliant chefs Ali

In short, The Cinnamon Stick is summer ready and we were there in a shot, desperate for some of Khalid Mohammed’s infamous Lebanese food.

Tucked away in the tiny West Oxfordshire village, The Cinnamon Stick opened in 2016 in former village pub The Carpenters Arms and soon drew a loyal crowd of appreciative diners. All the classics are on hand and Khalid’s regulars often know what they want before they arrive. We did!

And The Cinnamon Stick didn’t disappoint, the authenticity of the dishes and the passion Khalid puts into his food tangible. Way ahead of the game in terms of a sharing plate mentality, the numerous starters are crying out to be eaten by all-and-sundry. Judging by the sizzling platters that passed our table, the mains are equally as palatable.

the flatbread selection

And yet there are some new offerings – the grilled flatbread selection certainly set the bar high, the Arayes Kofta layered with minced lamb, onion, parsley and mixed spices, Kellage Halloumi with salty cheese and fresh mint and the fiery Mohamara (walnut and red pepper).

Trying to pace ourselves, mindful of much more to come, we still went overboard on the starters from the hot and cold mezze options. The Fatayer Sebanikh arrived next – homemade pastry parcels filled with spinach and onion, huge puffy flatbreads to accompany the Moutabel (charcoal grilled aubergine mixed with garlic & tahini, like a babaganoush).

The Cinnamon Stick’s mixed starters

The Tabbouleh (parsley & tomato salad with finely chopped with onion, herbs & bulgur wheat) is a must here, sharp and zingy with herbs, and then my all time favourite, the Fuul Moudammas (boiled fava beans with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil & tahini) which reverberate with flavour.

The Kibbeh – beautifully shaped fried wheat crusts stuffed with mince lamb, pine nuts & onion, like a lamb alternative to falafel, and then another new addition to the menu – the dark, dense Sawda Dejaj (sautéed chicken liver with red onion, coriander and lemon juice). Throw in the crispy florets of Zahra Maklia (fried cauliflower with a tahini dressing) and we were spoilt for choice. A feast for the senses ensued.

Dessert at The Cinnamon Stick

The wonderful thing about Middle-Eastern food is its lack of formality; plates shared around, everyone helping themselves to a bit of this and a bit of that, exclaiming over the flavours and going back for more. It’s such a sociable way to eat.

How we managed any of the desserts recommended by Khalid I’ll never know (just one more wafer thin mint?) but the Baklava are a given, and the Osmalieh was light as a feather – the Shredded Wheat style layers of crispy vermicelli pastry sandwiching the Lebanese cream (kashta), doused in sugar syrup and topped with pistachios. Not a calorie in sight!

cinnamon stick

And as platters of Chicken Shawarma, mixed grills and Kofta Kebabs passed our table sizzling away, couples, families and locals enjoying their experience as much as us, I marvelled at the tiny culinary kingdom Khalid has created there in Middle Barton, and how embraced he”s been by the local community.

So go, sit in the beautiful garden, revere the food and enjoy the Arabian lounge, because at the moment restaurants need all the help they can get and The Cinnamon Stick deserves every ounce of footfall.

The Cinnamon Stick is at 22 North St, Middle Barton, OX7 7DA.