The Chocolate Spoon Company ventures into Indian cuisine with Saffron by The Sassy Spoon

Saffron by The Sassy Spoon operates as a delivery-only brand across three locations in Mumbai and Pune, with plans to expand by the end of the year. And the first impressions of the menu are promising.

With delivery services being the only avenue for restaurants to continue business through lockdowns, the delivery food business has seen a growth spurt across the last year. The Chocolate Spoon Company by Chef Rachel Goenka, which managed to set up a new House of Mandarin in Pune even through these uncertain times, unfortunately, had to stall other projects in the pipeline such as the Sassy Café in BKC. Deliveries being the only way forward now, the group has swiftly launched a couple of delivery-only brands, one of which is Saffron by The Sassy Spoon.

Chef rachel goenka
Chef Rachel Goenka had been experimenting with a contemporary Indian cuisine concept well before the pandemic hit. But lockdowns prompted her to pivot to a cloud kitchen model with Saffron by The Sassy Spoon.

Although Indian cuisine hasn’t been on the menu before save for some experiments, the company has been exploring the idea of a contemporary Indian cuisine concept which would also include a variety of modern Indian desserts from the book Adventures With Mithai by Chef Rachel Goenka, even before the pandemic. Significant R&D went into the concept, including identification of dedicated spaces in both Mumbai and Pune. However, with the pandemic paralysing the dining industry, instead of physical restaurants, the company pivoted to a cloud kitchen concept.

The cloud kitchen concept has also helped optimise existing infrastructure and minimise investment. Kitchen space has been carved out from existing restaurant locations and chefs across the group proficient in Indian cuisine have helped put together specialised teams at each of the three locations across Mumbai and Pune.

This writer had the opportunity to get a taste of Saffron by The Sassy Spoon’s menu and first impressions were quite delightful. The packaging itself, made from bio-degradable and compostable corn starch materials, was quite clear in declaring the group’s sustainability philosophy.

The tasting menu included a soup, Telicherry Pepper Rasam with Roast Chicken; a starter, Saffron Chicken Kebab; mains such as Kulhad Butter Chicken with naan and roti, and Lucknowi Chicken Biryani; rounded off by Chocolate Barfi Cheesecake, a special from Chef Rachel Goenka’s Adventures With Mithai.

The rasam was the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice, a great way to whet one’s appetite, while the chicken kebabs were creamy on the outside and juicy on the inside, infused with a delicious smoky taste. The butter chicken, which came in a sealed earthen kulhad, was a pleasant surprise. The flavours were subtle and not overtly sweet like how it’s usually interpreted these days. The creamy gravy and chicken cooked just right with a hint of charred taste, left me mopping up every last bit.

Next up, was the chicken biryani. Given that it was called Lucknowi Chicken Biryani, I was expecting the traditional Awadhi style of biryani. However, the interpretation by Saffron was slightly different, with the spicy element at the fore and a mass of fried onions lending a refreshingly unique taste. Boneless pieces of chicken just made it more enjoyable, if not convenient, while the potatoes worked as a nod to the Awadhi style followed in the east of the country.

I had great expectations from the dessert, naturally, as it was a special from Adventures With Mithai, and it was indeed the best offering from among a number of good ones on the menu. Low on sweet, creamy and crumbly textures coming together for delectable taste and amazing mouthfeel, it was possibly one of the best dessert offerings I’ve had in a while.

Clearly, the R&D that went into developing the concept, the team and the flavours are working for the brand. For now, Saffron by The Sassy Spoon will be operated as a delivery-only brand, with expansions into other micro-markets planned until the end of this year. The current situation makes it the only viable solution for now, as the brand did see its delivery numbers double to 40 per cent of the overall business in the months India opened up after the first lockdown. It aims to improve focus on this segment, especially on direct ordering.

As with most other restaurants, the aggregator business model isn’t sustainable for The Chocolate Spoon Company either, with issues such as steep commission rates and customer data masking, marring the experience. The group has invested heavily in improving its technology platforms over the last year and promises a much better customer experience with deliveries too.

Saffron by The Sassy Spoon adds a crucial feather to the group’s cuisine offerings and with a solid menu, eco-friendly packaging and great delivery experience, is a brand worth watching out for.

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