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Still up there with the very best

Tony Rowen makes a return visit to a popular Northampton restaurant that never disappoints


IT’S a long time since I’ve visited Northampton town centre in the evening, and from all the doom and gloom stories that have been circulating I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Fair enough, retailers in the town are experiencing a hard time and there is much work to do to reinvigorate the town centre.

All is not lost, however. There are some elements that are thriving and one such place is Saffron, the award-winning Bangladeshi restaurant in Castilian Street. Proof of this was provided on my visit last month. The place was heaving – and it was a Wednesday night.

Next year Saffron celebrates its 20th anniversary, and owner Naz Islam is justifiably proud that the restaurant’s reputation has grown every year and that diners can enjoy the type of food and service provided in top London restaurants right here in the heart of Northampton.

I’ve eaten at Saffron on many, many occasions and I can say with all honesty that I have never been disappointed. The restaurant is bright, clean and airy, the staff are smartly dressed and polite, the tables are dressed with sparkling white cloths on top of black ones, the cutlery and glassware sparkle and the food is excellent.

This is in no small part down to award-winning Executive Chef Bodrul Islam who has created a menu that features innovative dishes which reflect the vast diversity of Asian regional cuisines.

As I’ve mentioned, the restaurant was heaving when Sue and I entered partly by diners taking advantage of the ever-popular Wednesday night buffet offer, but it was quickly apparent when we took our seats at our table that there were also many others selecting their meals from the main menu.

We opened proceedings with a glass of red wine each and a couple of poppadums and chutneys while studying the menu. I always like to have something different on my visits to Saffron and with regular changes made to the menu, it is always worthwhile to see any new dishes on offer.

Unusually, we were tempted to have starters – meat samosas for me and onion bhajis for Sue – which we later realised was perhaps a little foolhardy given the generous portions of our main courses which were Chicken Hundy with pilau rice from the Nepalese Dishes section for Sue and a Saffron Special Balti for me.

Sue’s dish comprised chicken cooked with freshly blended spices, tomato, green pepper, onion, fresh ginger, garlic and the chef’s own herbs to a strength of the diner’s choice which in her case was Madras.

My Special Balti featured lamb, chicken and prawns together with onions, tomatoes and herbs also accompanied by pilau rice and was delivered to the table in a traditional balti bowl.

As ever when I’ve eaten at Saffron, both meals were delicious. The meats were tender, the spices gave them real flavour and the strengths of each dish were ideal providing a very pleasing after glow once we had finished.

It was obvious from the diners on either side of our table that we were not the only ones to be enjoying the culinary expertise of Bodrul and his team.

A restaurant lives on the quality of its food, its service, its ambience and its reputation. A recent refurbishment has further enhanced the surroundings for customers.You don’t survive in this industry for almost 20 years without having all these elements. Saffron has them all in bucketloads. The attendance on this visit, like on other occasions, speaks volumes.

The town centre may have its problems, but it is heartening to see that Saffron is keeping the flag flying and continues to be a key player in the restaurant market that today provides diners with many different options.

The restaurant is open seven days a week 5.30pm to 11.30pm.


Saffron, 21 Castilian Street, Northampton, NN1 1JS

Tel: 01604 630800 / 01604 230609

Website: saffronnorthampton.co.uk

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