Gilly Mroz

The quest for curry, part 3: Saffron

My hunt for the best Oxford curry house continued with a visit to Saffron in Summertown. I had cycled past it on a number of occasions and, with my culinary radar always searching for new curry opportunities, I had always noticed it tucked to the side of the more eye-catching Summertown Cycles.

My two dining companions and I were greeted warmly when we arrived on a Saturday night. We were instantly amazed by the efficient service, the three of us having received five poppadums between us before the waiter had even brought out a bottle of tap water. As hungry poppadum fans, this was a good first impression.

For the starters, my boyfriend Al went for his usual vegetable samosas, which were a little pale and “not as good as other places”. My friend Fraser, however, was delighted with his tandoori king prawn selection. Instead of going for my usual samosas, I felt like trying something new, and opted for the pani poori, described on the menu as “puffed pooris filled onions, chickpeas and spicy water”. When the starters arrived and I compared my dish with the blonde samosas, I was feeling optimistic that I’d made the right decision. When I tried them, I was sure of it.

The pani poori are little bitesize puffed up balls of poppadum-like goodness filled with a chickpea curry. I offered some to my dining companions to share the culinary enjoyment and, through trial and error, we learnt that they’re far better without the “spicy water”, which masks their simple deliciousness. I was delighted with my order and in future will happily choose these little pockets of joy again.

I was delighted with my order and in future will happily choose these little pockets of joy again.

When we came onto the mains, I ordered the vegetable Balti with a plain naan. I was expecting a tomato-based masala with all the usual kinds of vegetables in the curry: onions, tomatoes, and maybe some pepper, cauliflower, potato or green beans. To my surprise, the masala was nowhere near as tomato-rich as I had anticipated and, although the curry contained onions and the odd tomato, instead of some of my expected vegetables, it contained predominantly courgette and broccoli. Courgette and broccoli! This was a curry first for me. Despite it not being quite what I’d had in mind, it was still delicious, and I devoured every morsel while feeling well on my way to having my five a day.

My companions both opted for the garlic chicken paneer jalfrezi which they both enjoyed. Al’s only complaint at the time was that he had wanted more, but this was only because of its deliciousness rather than any meagreness.

Our overall verdict was that Saffron was a delightful experience. The service was wonderful and the food was tasty. It was also very good value for money with the perfect portion sizes – small enough to finish, but large enough to feel as though you’d had a good curry. The vegetable samosas may have been a bit blonde, and my curry may have been a little unexpected content-wise, but we left with our tummies and taste buds satisfied. Saffron left us with an excellent first impression, and we’d happily go back to sample some of their other dishes.

We’re still undecided as to whether it will become our local curry restaurant, but for now it’s certainly leading the pack.