ALWAYS sad to see a well-known restaurant go and so it is with the Saffron Club in Sheffield city centre, one of the local pioneers of more upmarket Indian food and decor.
Owner Naz Islam has moved on to pastures new and the restaurant has been taken over by the owner of the Samad Cottage in Dronfield and some business associates.
Inside looks just the same, I am told, with modern surroundings with lots of clean lines and subdued lighting and a colour palette of cream and autumnal browns. The overall impression is elegant but relaxed.
Once inside, there’s not a hint that you are inside part of the old Glossop Road Baths building.
I was one of the people who fought for the building, with its beautiful tiled Turkish baths and swimming pools, to be taken over as a community resource, a sadly unsuccessful campaign that I have a lot of good memories of.
Initial opinions of the restaurant on the TripAdvisor website focused a lot on poor service, but this had definitely been addressed on my visit, as a couple of experienced staff were running the front of house operation very effectively.
We were very quickly offered drinks and poppadoms and a pleasant pickle tray, the better to peruse the menu. You can get a reasonable bottle of wine but friend Janet and I went for Tiger beers instead.
There’s a fair choice, with starters split into vegetable, meat and seafood sections.
Apart from all the usual pakoras, bhajis and samosas, there are some less usual options, such as kidney pan-fried in spices, spicy chicken liver or a chicken tangri kebab, which is a chicken leg stuffed with vegetables and garlic. Prices are reasonable and most come in at well under a fiver.
Janet went for the trio of samosas and I had a Tamarind kebab.
The main course dishes are split into several sections, which apparently take three chefs to cope with.
Prices are around £6 to £10 and the sections include tandoori dishes, Tamarind specials, balti dishes, Mughlai cuisine, biryanis, tradtional desi-style dishes (think home cooking), and classics, which also include a few fish and seafood choices in the mix.
They cover all bases by serving steaks, pasta dishes and Thai-style sweet and sour fish for non-curry lovers.
Vegetarians don’t have a huge choice but the novoratan korma sounds interesting, with nine different vegetables.
The waiter had to be very patient with me when we were ordering main dishes as I dithered endlessly, finally plumping for chicken sallay.
Janet had a bit of a discussion with the waiter about the fish dishes, opting for the fish boti rara masala. He made sure to check if she minded bones or not.
We added pilau rice and naan bread.
My kebab, which was pan-fried lamb with peppers and onions, was very pleasant with good, fairly tender lamb pieces with mildish spices.
Janet also enjoyed her crispy samosas with a mixed vegetable filling.
My main dish was very good and quite unusual. The chicken was lovely and tender, flavoured with garlic and tamarind, and it was topped by a thick layer of fluffy mashed potato and onion with interesting spicing that was new to me. The overall effect was quite lush without being sickly or oily.
The waiter later said that it was a bit of an experiment to put it on the menu and it certainly worked well.
Janet was fairly impressed with her fish, which I also tried. They were good pieces of white fish (the menu said sea fish but Janet thought river was more likely) in a masala sauce.
The naan bread was lovely and light and the pilau rice was fine.
After a break we were offered the usual daft puddings that kids love but declined.
We did, however, have Asian-style tea, which already has the milk in. It should really have the sugar in too but we decided to add our own.
All customers that night were given invitations to the official opening the following week but sadly I wasn’t able to go in the end. Nice touch, though.
Our bill came to £40.70 in total.
Verdict: A good solid performance by kitchen and waiting staff alike. A pleasant evening all round without being spectacular.
Tamarind Restaurant, 223 Glossop Road, Sheffield city centre. 0114 276 6150.
Open: noon to 2.30pm, Monday to Thursday. 6pm to 11.30pm, seven days.