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