Saffron Circle: The tastiest new Indian restaurant in London?
'An Indian Love Story that feeds your soul and stomach'.
‘An Indian Love Story that feeds your soul and stomach.’ How could I possibly say no to such a proposition?
Yep, Indian food fanatic that I am, the tagline for all-new Swiss Cottage restaurant Saffron Circle was more than enough to get me in the mood for all things spicy, rice-y and tastebud-pleasing.
With tantalising, exotic menus that take inspiration from all over India, Lavanya Mahate’s Saffron Valley restaurants are renowned for fostering an intimate dining atmosphere across each of their Salt Lake City locations. And now, luckily for us, they’ve brought their unique curry-house-meets-fine-dining aesthetic to the UK.
I decided to get a wriggle on to the restaurant’s official launch party/Holi festival mash-up to get a flavour for what this Love Story thing is all about – and to sample some of the food (naturally).
The Love Story
Saffron Circle’s menu, ambience and overall dining experience revolve around the story of Rishi and Maya, two youngsters that fall in love at first sight.
In fact, indicators of the story can be found everywhere, from the arresting pictures of Rishi and Maya on the walls, to the more unexpected touches, like the cocktail menu: Managing Director Satish Kumar tells me that each drink is inspired by a stage of the couple’s budding romance.
Chef Santosh Shah’s carefully curated menu of pan-Indian dishes are designed to bring together families, friends, all of your social ‘circles’ (hence the name, Saffron Circle), in a shared gastronomic experience.
At the launch, I managed to have a nibble on some of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Here’s the lowdown…
Menu description: Spiced deep-fried chicken from Chennai.
The verdict: A delicious morsel of chicken balanced daintily on a miniature poppadom. Be warned though – once you’ve started the Chicken 65 wagon rolling, there’s no stopping it; one is simply not enough. What’s the 65 part all about? Not sure. MD Satish tells me there’s a theory out there that it’s the number of spices used in the recipe – but he can confirm that this is just a rumour.
Lamb Sheekh Kebab
Menu description: Freshly minced lamb meat cooked with garlic, green chilli and garam masala.
The verdict: YUM. This seriously tasty kebab treat is grilled to perfection over charcoal in a traditional tandoor oven, allowing it to retain its divine meaty juices. The bite-sized iteration of the dish I was given came topped with a punchy mint and coriander chutney (AKA lamb’s best friend).
Menu description: Tender chicken pieces marinated with ginger, garlic, spices, yoghurt and lime juice.
The verdict: Ah yes, good ol’ dependable chicken tikka. We meet again! In a Saffron Circle twist, this one comes served on a crunchy, crispy affair that’s the perfect juxtaposition to the melt-in-the-mouth goodness of the chicken. Serving suggestion: eat while sipping a refreshing gin cocktail, like the one (blurrily) pictured above.
Punjabi Samosa Chaat
Menu description: Savoury potato and green pea pastry, sweet yoghurt, tamarind and mint chutney.
The verdict: From the first pop of the pomegranate seed topping to the dense potato stodginess underneath, eating one of these is like taking a sweet and savoury journey aboard a pastry craft – with fruity flavours giving way to a spicy aftertaste. This one just edges it as the evening’s champion snack, in my eyes.