Saffron is without doubt the most elegant and luxurious Indian restaurant on the Gold Coast. Its position in Broadbeach is situated directly opposite Pacific Fair and the Broadbeach South light rail station within easy reach of Jupiter’s Casino, the Convention Centre and major hotels. Sridhar Penumechu opened Saffron in 2005 in a bid to take the ‘best bits’ from traditional Indian food and create something new, modern and exciting.
“My vision was…to use both my Indian heritage and my extensive experience as a restaurateur to inspire a positively different product,” he said. He has since opened a number of other restaurants in Australia and overseas.
With plush velvet lounges, sateen and velvet chairs, linen-clad tables, mosaic tile and wood floors, crystal chandeliers and candles, it’s a very ambient venue for a date, a quiet business lunch or a group celebration. Divided by screens and with several separate areas, the restaurant caters well for all these purposes.
On our first visit for lunch, we head for the separate ‘gourmet’ section of the menu containing such dishes as Chicken Softa (a chicken breast stuffed with pistachio and cottage cheese) and Lazeez Champan, tender grilled lamb cutlets rubbed with ginger and ground peppercorns. This dish is served with saffron rice, salad and garlic naan – absolutely delicious! A winner!
While by day the colours and plushness of the velvet upholstered chairs are obvious, at night the restaurant takes on a more exotic feel. We’ve returned as guests of Saffron to experience its more romantic side. As laser lights play on the ceiling, reflecting off the crystal candelabras, we listen to hypnotic melodies played on the esraj (similar to a sitar).
Our gracious waiter, Senthil, leads us through a range of dishes in Saffron’s extensive menu, beginning with small sharing plates and working up to mains and dessert. We asked him how different Saffron’s dishes are to those he enjoys in India.
“There’s no compromise in flavour at all at Saffron, only in heat. For example, here we will make a Vindaloo curry for you at medium heat if you wish, whereas in India there is only one temperature for Vindaloo and the same for Butter Chicken.”
He tells us that only the freshest ingredients are used, that all spice mixes are made by hand to order, with no processed products used at all. It’s knowledge which is shown in the pungency of the flavours, the way each curry is rich, deep and different in flavor to every other dish.
“Constant effort is made towards obtaining the highest quality products and keeping the cooking methods as original as possible,” owner Sridhar says. “I have instilled a culture of ‘there is no shortcut method’ within my team, from servers to chefs — they are all aware that the menu has to be prepared and served the original way.”
What emerges is an eclectic mix of modern Indian cuisine. The tandoor is the source of many of the entrées, however there are several variations of marinade: lasoni (with yoghurt, cheese and garlic), aangarch (with bird’s eye chilli) and hariyali kebab, moist portions of chicken rich with the flavours of spinach, mint, coriander and spices. Our succulent Hervey Bay Scallops are glazed with a Madras sauce and topped with pickled pear and papadams ($18.90), while our Dosa (a South Indian specialty) is an interesting modern version with its filling of crisp soft shell crab ($18.90).
Catering for vegetarian, gluten-free, meat and curry lovers, gourmet diners will be delighted with the innovative twists on main dishes: the richness of Atlantic salmon simmered in curry sauce and finished with curry leaves and roasted fennel ($30.90), or Slow-cooked lamb shoulder in a coconut curry sauce with sheep’s milk yoghurt and mustard cream ($38.90). Both dishes are tasty and rich, less spectacular in presentation than the lamb cutlets we’d enjoyed for lunch, but more substantial. (We also note that the restaurant has Halal certification.)
We find room for dessert – at Senthil’s suggestion, a Gulag Jamun Cheesecake which features my favourite Indian sweet, Gulag Jamun, dotted through a rich cheesecake.
Saffron is fully licensed. There’s an extensive drinks list packed with boutique and fine world wines and spirits. This is a premium selection, a well-priced international list but with little local flavour. The cocktail list also travels the world with fusion creations such as an Indian Martini, Shochupolitan and Saffron Caipiroska.
Saffron’s influence extends beyond the walls of the restaurant to their exclusive function catering for some of the Gold Coast’s most prestigious and luxurious hotels as well as to private functions. While it would not be fair to call Saffron’s fare ‘Indian fusion’, what it does give us is an authentic unique take on contemporary Indian cuisine.
Sierra Grande Building, Cnr Margaret St & Gold Coast Hwy, Broadbeach
Ph: 07 5538 9291 Open: Mon – Sun 12noon – 3pm; 6pm – 11pm.
Note: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Saffron Indian Gourmet on one occasion.
Saffron launched Michelin star restaurant Heritij in Brisbane on 10th September 2018.
This review has also been published on Blank GC.