This venue has closed.
Just as a culinary void opened with the departure of Azul and Madison from Dongping Lu for other neighbourhoods, Saffron expertly fills it. This new Indian features smart, stylish decor, complemented by wafts of incense when you step inside and, most importantly, impressive, spicerich cuisine which takes no short cuts. Service in the opening period has been patchy, but this is typical with new venues and the quality coming from the kitchen means that such missteps can be overlooked.
The menu features classic Indian staples with a handful of more inventive dishes. From the starters, the lamb samosas (48RMB) are mouthwatering crispy golden pyramids holding lightly spiced minced meat and the onion bhaji (40RMB) have just the right deep fried crunch, though they’re slightly over salted. The salmon tikka (108RMB) is an interesting addition to the range of tandoor oven appetisers and the spices mix well with the juicy, tender chunks of fish, though we ultimately prefer the delicious classic chicken version (66RMB), especially given that it’s close to half the price.
As for the curries, the chicken vindaloo (68RMB) filled with chunks of soft chicken and potato comes in a generously sized portion compared to many Indian restaurants in Shanghai. It also reaches a fiery spice level that leaves your tongue tingling for a long time afterwards. On the milder side, the lamb korma (78RMB) is simply masterful. A rich, creamy and slightly tangy sauce smothers cuts of tasty meat – it’s an absolute must order.
The rich yellow dal (60RMB) and dal makhani (62RMB) are outstanding examples of just how delicious vegetarian cuisine can be. Less impressive are the breads, with our average-sized basket of naan (20RMB for plain or garlic) coming slightly cold and limp on several visits.
Somewhat unusually for an Indian restaurant, Saffron’s drinks are also worthy of note. The mango lassi (34RMB) is a pleasantly refreshing and fruity non-alcoholic option, but it’s the list of ‘Indian cocktails’ which is most intriguing. A Tandoori Tequila (50RMB) blends pineapple and lime, while a dusting of chilli does enough to blunt the Mexican spirit’s often overwhelming flavour. The East India cocktail (50RMB) of brandy, rum, triple sec, pineapple juice and bitters is a heavier, more wintery mixture, but a similarly tasty one that pairs well with the food.
There’s also a good wine list, with glasses starting from 58RMB and bottles from 288RMB. And for those who feel that a curry can only ever be washed down with a beer, bottled Kingfisher (43RMB) is naturally offered beside draft Heineken (36RMB/330ml).