Unlike the newest glistening restaurants in Nairobi with sleek mirrored dining tables and oversized chandeliers, Saffron Restaurant feels like a place of safety, home. Not over-conceptualized, Saffron’s no-frills Indian comfort food is delicious, unpretentious, reasonably price and set in a decent setting – it’s as good as it gets.
Located in the Food Loft of Yaya Centre, a swankier version of your regular food court; don’t let the simplicity of the operation fool you. Eight years and counting, Saffron’s kitchen knows what they’re doing.
Nobody here will try to explain the concept of the menu, the all-organic vision of the chef, or how much a bottle of vintage champagne costs. No one will interrupt you as you’re gobbling down delicious mouthfuls to ask if everything is fine. The service is swift and pleasant. Saffron’s staff will simply look after you.
The décor doesn’t try too hard either. Yaya’s Food Loft is a common food area on the second floor. Modern with clean lines and smooth surfaces for easy cleaning, the space is airy like a loft. Nestled in the far right end of the cafeteria, in addition to its regular tables and chairs, Saffron enjoys banquette seating under the bright natural sunlight cascading through the building’s windows. Fresh aromatic roses give the sleek tables some welcomed colour and life.
The food has a thoughtful complexity. Take a starter described as papadums stuffed with paneer, potatoes and a blend of spices. The Papadum Rolls (Sh 300) with its crispy shell and sultry filling brightened by a generous mix of Dhania (fresh coriander) excite the palette. Chilly Garlic Mushrooms (Sh 550) – three words that are humbling, but out of which creates something memorable. The crispy texture of lightly battered and deep-fried mushrooms, plump with its own natural juices, then tossed and coated with a sweet chilli sauce, results in a burst of satisfaction with every mouthful.
For the mains, there was the popular Chicken Tikka Jeera Masala (Sh 650) with its marinated chicken cooked in a creamy sauce with roasted cumin. Tawa Prawns (Sh 1300) cooked with onions, capsicum and tomato cubes. The garlic flavour ever so present is delicious and reminds you that carrying gum all the time is a necessity. The homemade dumplings cooked in a silky paste of spinach, Palak Kofta (Sh 600), was a personal favourite with strong ginger and garlic notes. The “famous” Sheesh Kebab (Sh 600) was good, but it wasn’t that good. The mince meat was on the dry side and the texture was too firm for my personal preference. I would also stay away from the Cheese Naan. With the sprinkling of onions, the greasy bread tasted more like the beginnings of a pizza.
We finish with tea as our waiter reappears for only the third time during our meal to offer some hot water steeped with lime to clean our hands – certainly an added-value for a food-court-like-experience. Affordable and offering value, Saffron is good. If you should not care about those things, then at least knowing that the food at Saffron is delicious will perhaps get your attention.
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