5, The Square, Richmond.
Monday 19th May
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.
Just look at those reviews. What a shocker! Dear oh dear: my golly gosh.
The reviews of this little Persian restaurant are not… all… that… good.
“‘Appalling service’. ‘Absolutely dreadful!’. ‘I definitely won’t go there again’” to quote a few of the politer ones.
Well…where there’s a challenge! We went anyway.
And it wasn’t bad at all. The service was friendly, straightforward and to be honest fairly speedy. It was not rushed but neither was it lackluster.
And it wasn’t nearly expensive. The set menu costs just £13.95 for three courses, three quid less for the two. It consists of typically Middle Eastern food.
For starters we went for the Hummous and the Olviyeh – a filled mayonnaise of diced chicken, egg, potatoes and peas. The highlight undoubtedly was the bread. Here at Saffron they have their own bread oven, much like a traditional pizza oven – our waiter explains- in which they cook flatbreads to order. It was excellent. A Persian chapatti of distinction. It mopped up the as impressive hummous in moments (there perhaps wasn’t enough). The Olviyeh was harder to get down. It merely wasn’t our cuppa and simply wasn’t as good as the exceptionally balanced hummous.
I had asked the waiter about the rather Persian sounding soft drink – Doogh – on the menu. He rather hesitantly suggested that I try it first. It was a good call – I went for a diet coke in the end. Doogh is a rather sharp fizzy yoghurt and probably not for most Western palates but it was good to try it and I appreciated the honesty and generosity of the waiter.
And so the mains: these too were very good – if not rather large. We would have preferred more of the hummous for the starter and a smaller main. Kabab Koobideh – skewers of minced lamb with steamed rice, and Zareshk Polow – Rice mixed with piquant ruby Barberries, saffron and pistachios and served with braised chicken.
There was a lot served but all was good. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and its accompanying rice was lovely. I don’t normally enjoy fruit in my mains and would prefer to keep that for dessert, yet the sharpness of the berries was a good addition. The lamb skewers were fit for a Monday afternoon and would have been wasted on the drunken revelers of a Saturday night. The rice with these was, however, unspectacular. The lack of sauce was notable – whereas the sauce from the braised chicken was spiced superbly and moreish.
The portions sizes meant that desserts were by no means necessary and so we paid and left.
All in we departed bemused by the reviews we had read and were glad that we ignored them. Having said that: we went on a quiet afternoon and many of those dining assessors had expressed cause for concern regarding the speediness and the indeed the grumpiness of the waiting staff. We didn’t experience this at all – though the number of costumers far from overcame them.
We enjoyed the food; the hummus and the chicken were great whilst the flatbreads were superb. Furthermore; we could hardly fault the service. We’d go here again, though perhaps err on the side of safety and stick to the quieter times of day!!
£22 without drinks or service.