Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Cowes is like a little seasonal enclave of metropolitan mainland which has somehow become established on the overseas territory of the Isle of Wight....

Cowes is like a little seasonal enclave of metropolitan mainland which has somehow become established on the overseas territory of the Isle of Wight. The closer to the summer it gets, the more that people in Cowes drive posh cars, talk loudly on mobile phones, hurry around busily and feel that £2.99 for a paper cup full of coffee is a good investment. Come the winter, the boutiques lower their shutters, half of Cowes is boarded up and the BMWs wait quietly in their warm garages whilst their owners return to the ‘north island’. This year, following a positive recommendation from a friend, Matt and Cat set out to try a restaurant called Saffron just as the town was starting to wake up around about Easter time.

Saffron is an Indian restaurant in a prime position on Cowes High Street. It displays what is now becoming the standard livery for a good Indian – tasteful pastel shades, plenty of recessed lighting, laminate flooring and modern furniture. However, Saffron did manage to go a little further than most in creating a good environment, with luxurious linen tablecloths and napkins, and a host of smartly uniformed and attentive staff who between them courteously installed Matt and Cat at a comfortable table.

The menu was large, and took some careful study to view all that was on offer. Prices were obviously set to Cowes standards – a little above what one might expect elsewhere on the Island, but probably nothing to raise the eyebrows of a mainland diner. There was a pleasing selection of dishes which were not all standard Indian fare, and later in the menu was cunningly hidden a cheaper range of more basic Indian staples. An impressive range of starters was so alluring that your reviewers broke with their normal habit and decided to sample an appetiser before plunging into the main course. Matt had an intriguing lamb and cheese pancake roll, and Cat had traditional samosas. Neither dish disappointed, being freshly cooked, promptly produced and good examples of what a starter course should be – modest in size, but flavoursome and interesting to the palette.

A good starter poses a question – can the main course live up to it? Too often the answer is a sad negative, but in this case Matt and Cat found the next course to be an enjoyable continuation of the good standard at which it began. Matt was tempted by the specials and chose a garlic chicken dish, and Cat chose her usual chicken tikka balti. The garlic chicken was a delight, with copious chunks of fresh and tender chicken in a rich and pungent sauce, topped, remarkably, with a large handful of raw crushed garlic. This startling garnish turned out the be the perfect complement to the dish. The balti contained the same generous portion of succulent chicken breast meat. Naan bread was included in the price and the bread was delicious, fresh and with a big dollop of ghee butter on it.

Once the meal had been savoured, steaming hot cotton towels were produced, and complementary chocolates – like all the crockery, bearing the Saffron logo – completed the impression of a very well-organised and confident establishment.
Saffron, Cowes High Street

  • Sean says:

    Went out in Cowes with the intention of eating at Brawns Tapas Bar, but the place looked pretty quiet and one of the 4 of us wanted something spicy so we headed for Saffrons!

    Busy as always, the fast efficient service, and the food was fantastic, everyone commented on how fresh tasting the dishes were and the quality of the ingredients, the lamb especially was very tasty. We all went out last month to Bengal Palace and although the bill was a lot less the food was not up to this quality we thought – you do get what you pay for.

    The Owner was telling us that locals are still filling the place and the sailing crews are yet to arrive (he thought due to Olympic sailing) so it could be a very busy summer for them when wellie-week arrives!!

  • Sean says:

    4 of us visited Saffron’s on Saturday Night, and although it is not quite yachtie week yet the place was very busy, almost every seat taken. I was impressed with the service as the poppodoms and drinks were quick, and we all thought we would have a very long wait for mains, however they were only about 30 mins, considering how busy they were, we were all impressed! The food was good and no complaints from anyone. We had walked passed Bahar and Cowes Tandoori which were also full, must be a good time of year for them all.

  • oliver harvey says:

    This was a third visit to Saffrons.

    The second time, I ate in, and was shocked to discover the restaurant has low & high season menu prices ! High season prices are a p*ss take really, & would be cheaper to eat on brick lane. Not particularly impressed by this move to say the least.

    I was getting take away this time and was assured by a friend they havent changed to the high season prices just yet !

    Anyway …3 mains: Chick tikka bhuna & 2 x chicken sagwala/1 darka dal/ 2 nan / 2 pilau rice/ chutney/ raita/ popperdoms were ordered

    what arrived was only 2 mains ( we rang, they said we did not pay for the Bhuna although we definitely ordered it ! )
    & the 2 chicken sagwala that did arrive was actually lamb (some of which is still stuck between my teeth ! )
    We didnt bother making a fuss, cos there was 3 hungry lads to feed !

    Sagwala was pretty good, although little oily and lacked freshness i.e herbs. (and was obviously lamb instead of the requested chicken)
    Dal was ok, lacking the garlic undertones

    pilua rice/nan …. standard ….
    chutney, well a little atomic in colour & sweet, and the raita an impossible shade of mustard yellow – how hard is it to make a yoghurt based dip ?!

    Eating in Indian Restaurants, you always expect a certain standard of quality/conformity – which saffrons delivered in part.

    Shame they cant get a simple take away order correct, and I would like to see the abolishment of cynical price changes & some freshly made raita please!

    Price for 2 main/1 side/2 rice/6 popperdoms/2 nan/chutney & raita £25.50

    no complimentary salad included

  • Rayharhar says:

    We visited the above establishment on Valentines Day at lunchtime. They were fully booked in the evening so we decided to go for the quieter time of day. The Saffron opens at 12 noon and then closes at 1.30pm. So it is advisable to arrive early.

    When we entered the restaurant at 12 noon on the dot we were welcomed by the stench of bleach rather than the essence of the East, as the floor had just been washed and was still wet. We were handed menus by a very polite member of staff, wearing jeans and t-shirt, who informed us that the waiter had yet to arrive. Fortunately the floor swiftly dried, and the smell of cleaning fluids was soon replaced by subtle spices from their exotic menu.

    The menu was amazing having so many unusual and different things to choose from. My partner, a vegetarian, usually has her favourite – Tarka Dhal – every time we visit an Indian restaurant. This is a very cheap meal (costing just £2.95 for a small portion) but she was tempted by one of the 19 vegetarian choices – Sabzi Masala at £6.50, so I had to stretch the wallet a little more than usual! This dish is a mixture of fresh vegetables marinaded in mild homemade sauce – then cooked in a delicious masala sauce.

    I chose from one of the 24 chefs specials – Batak Samadi. A duck dish, marinaded in the tandoor oven and then served with masala sauce.

    We shared a number of side dishes, all of which were excellent. The chef did forget to provide us with our pilau rice – which was deducted from the bill when we pointed that fact out. This was a pity as I am sure it would have been marvellous like the rest of the meal. The restaurant prides itself on its wide range of home cooked and best quality ingredients. They aim to reduce the fat content in their food and will adjust any dish to suit an individual’s taste.

    The Saffron offers good value, healthy choices and friendly staff. Clean toilets, a sign of good hygiene practices, are also worth a mention. They just need to get organised prior to customers entering the building in order to provide an improved welcome.

    A long stemmed red carnation was given by the staff as a gesture for the special occasion, sadly the stem was severed during its ride in a shopping bag! Note to self, flowers do not transport well within confined areas with weighty items.

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