The reopened Saffron at JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu has something for the traditionalist, the explorer as well as the experimenter.
From the time it opened, Saffron has always been one of those reliable North Indian five-star hotel restaurants you frequently come across. It was never unique, but the quality of the experience was good enough for it to be counted amongst the best in the city. Over the years it lost its cache and went through a period of middling quality.
Recently reopened, the restaurant has undergone design changes in its menu and interiors. The engraved stone door frames have been clad in dark wood as have the inside pillars. The black-and-white, wood square back chairs have been replaced by soft, pale aubergine upholstered accent chairs while copper-toned metal mesh curtains ring the room.
From being largely North Indian-centric, the menu now embraces regional cuisines, while also tossing in a couple of modern, interpretative dishes to give it a contemporary touch.
They’ve also introduced signature cocktails like the Saffroni; a cardamom-flavoured version of the White Negroni where the bitter flavours are pronounced and bracing since the balancing sweetness of vermouth is sacrificed.
Their modern version of the stuffed Banarsi Aloo with its sesame crust and mixed dried fruit and cheese stuffing worked quite well though it could have done with a touch more of the excellent pomegranate beet chutney. While the Gondhoraj Prawns sound great on paper they suffer on execution; they’re tasty enough, but the delicate Bengali gondhoraj lime is overpowered by the robust, spicy kasundi and chilli powder marinade.
Made from a mixture of local leafy vegetables, the Aminabadi Saag, and the classic Bhuna Gosht were perfectly adequate. However, the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani had us a bit perplexed. It was so delicate and mild we thought we had been served the Awadhi Biryani by mistake. Once again the Wild Mushrooms, Mascarpone, Chilli and Truffle Kulcha looked great on paper, but the generous topping of chilli flakes smothered the other delicate flavours; a hint of minced green chilli would have done the job far more effectively.
The Berry and Brioche Tukda came as a refreshing surprise. Yes, the fried bread had been soaked in too much sugar syrup and sure the chewy crusts should have been removed. But substituting the regular tukda with a soft, fluffy brioche was a great idea as was the topping of tart berries which balanced out the sweetness to some extent. With a few minor changes this could be a great dessert.
Right now the menu at Saffron feels like the restaurant is playing it safe. It has something for the traditionalist, the explorer and the experimenter and perhaps, that is the mix of clientele the restaurant caters to at the moment. Sooner or later they’ll have to decide which direction they want to head in because stand-alone restaurants are pushing the envelope and speciality Indian restaurants are becoming increasingly focussed. This coffee shop approach to Indian cuisine doesn’t bode well for the future.
Saffron, Lower Lobby, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400049; Phone: +91-22-66933000
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
One dish we loved: Berry and Brioche Tukda
One dish that didn’t work for us: Gondhoraj Prawns