Friday 21 September 2007

Saffron - Kingston Road, Portsmouth

Once upon a time wars were waged over golden straws of saffron, so highly sought was this delicate spice. In the mid 14th century, after the Black Death, the price skyrocketed and a 3 month war broke out to secure shipments, involving Muslim and European merchants. Now you get it on the shelves in Tescos for a quid. Progress? I mulled this over last Wednesday as I flopped into Saffron Indian restaurant following school.

The PLACE announces itself in electric blue lettering, a pink glow radiating softly from behind net curtains. One waiter and I resided in the spacious air conditioned salon. The waiter didn’t so much as reside as wait patiently at a distance, not wishing to disturb my contemplation of a relatively concise menu (I rewarded him 10% for the SERVICE).

Munching on complimentary poppas I wasn’t long deciding. Chose Hush Tikka to begin. Turned out to be slim slivers of duck breast presented on a bed of sizzling tumeric yellow onions. An oval plate carried ripe salad and a tablespoon of a mustard coloured sauce tasting of…mustard (!) with a hint of lemon, roasted cumin seed. Decent value at £3.45 – PRICES btw are lower than other recent arrivals (T & Js, Blue Cobra, Ghandi etc). Main affair a Borboti curry. Tantalisingly close to being very good. Dry chicken pieces in a thick, pasty masala with juicy green beans, an accent of sharp sour chilli resin and a bitter, fragrant underscore of fenugreek. Best dish, Mishti Kodu. Soft pumpkin made sweetly aromatic, at the same time slightly eucalyptine by ground cardamom.

I enjoyed clean dishes, using ‘low cholesterol’ approach and whether true or no this didn’t dull the flavours. I’ll go back for sure. To meet the owner, one XXX. Also on the off chance of rubbing shoulders with Pompey stars, some are rumoured regulars.

...Not many regulars on second visit unless they happen to be related to the invisible man. 4 in my party and one other couple dined in. Served by a pumped up, slick young waiter sporting spiky hair. Softly spoken in keeping with calm, commodious ambience. Hush Tikka for Aaran and Rich, Chicken Tikka for me, nothing for Mike. Bad decision? We had to wait 45 minutes for starters, then another 45 for mains to arrive, still Mike protested he was fine (and he was, a solid fella).

Returning to the food. Subtle Chicken Tikka sprinkled with paprika, good bitesize pieces – loads of onion (again!). Indeed onions are the chefs speciality, really gets a kick out of frying them. Wonder if he cries when he peels them? Were enough delicately browned onions to stuff a pillow with in my Bhindi side dish, a pleasant, pulpy sub for Brinjal. No Aubergines y’see, they had run out. Someone hadn’t been shopping, perhaps explaining gap between courses, no ingredients except onions?! Anyhow when a Dhansak eventually arrived it was a bit suppressed and syrupy, same went for Rich and Aarans Chicken Kodu’s (no they’re not twins), spices and green chillies didn’t register. Mike got to have some food at last, including a good looking garlic naan. Sundries were best bit really. Brilliant pilau rice, soft, buttery and gently parfumed with mellow fennel, toasty cumin.

In SUMMARY Saffron A Ok though I’d head further on up the road to quoth Eric Clapton for Blue Cobra.

Willp2328 score: 6/10

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