Early this year, an Indian friend told me that a friend of his was opening an Indian restaurant. This pleased me, as one thing that I have always wished for since I moved back to Sierra Leone is variety. A few months later, in August, a sign popped up, on a modern, seemingly well-built structure with little parking, at 39 Murray Town Road – “Saffron Indian Restaurant and Bar”.
Two Fridays ago, as part of a party of 13, I decided to check out the new joint that everyone had been raving about. I am definitely not a food expert but I am passionate about service delivery and using the company I’m managing, JobSearch to promote excellence in the service industry. I arrived first and was greeted courteously and led to the reserved table. Within seconds, I had drink and food menus in front of me and was offered a drink. I ordered a glass of house white wine and looked around while waiting for the rest of the party. The room, which seats 75 guests, was adequately lit, décor was beautiful and tables were well spaced. It also smelt clean and had a positive ambience. I could have been anywhere in the world. As other diners arrived, they were promptly greeted and served. Vishal, the owner even came over to greet us personally.
I finally opened the menus and found myself very impressed by the selection of wine – from Portugal, Italy, France, USA, Chile, Spain, Australia, South Africa. Prices ranged from Le110,000 to Le410,000. There were also moderately priced cocktails (a couple of people recommended the ginger one, but advised us to stay away from the mojito), mocktails and shooters. The food selection was also very wide, with lamb, chicken, prawn, lobster, fish and mutton offered in a variety of ways, lots of naan and other types of bread to choose from and even Indo-Chinese food. I took a look at the dessert list – gulab jamun (fried milk balls soaked in sugar syrup), gajar kahalwa (grated carrot, milk and sugar), kulfi (often referred to as Indian ice cream) and ice cream – and decided to give them a miss as I am not adventurous when it comes to food and I rarely eat ice cream.
We ordered a variety of samosas and prawn starters and then proceeded to order a range of curry and Indo-Chinese dishes for the main course. The servers were not familiar with the menu and could not answer questions about the meals. After a long wait for the meal, which we could see being cooked in the open kitchen, we also had to deal with the servers not remembering who had ordered what and not being able to differentiate between the dishes. After the initial confusion, everyone dug into their meals which we all found enjoyable. I had a lamb korma with white rice and it was fantastic, reminded me of food from my favourite Indian takeaway in London. My aunts raved about the fried rice, but I didn’t have any as I don’t eat visible eggs.
Those of us drinking wine got through a bottle each of red and white. We ordered a second of each and the server informed us that they did not have any chilled bottles of the white wine we were drinking and they had run out of the red wine. We asked him to put the white wine in an ice bucket (thought that would have been obvious) and selected a different type of red. I was not able to see how many other people were drinking wine but I thought they could have handled their stock better. I also noticed that Evian water was served in a sports bottle and without a glass.
I was delighted to see that the toilet was clean, even though the seat was wet and there was only one cubicle, and they did not seem to have any issues with running water. It could have done with some air freshener though. The hand dryer, however, did not work and the only alternative for wiping hands was the one-ply toilet roll.
On a whole, it was a very pleasant experience and I would definitely recommend it. However, the servers need more training and to be interested enough to familiarize themselves with the menus. Being new, of course, it was packed and there was a great buzz. I hope they continue to get a good crowd and that when the next new joint opens, we would still remember that there’s an Indian restaurant in town. Thing is though, how often does one fancy a curry?