Cafe Saffron 2, Admiral Duncan Inn, Baschurch
Success breeds success for top chef and his team, says Andy Richardson.
It was surely only a matter of time before Shropshire's most successful restaurant opened a new branch.
Cafe Saffron has rarely been out of the headlines since 2010, when its chef-proprietor Abdul Husen was named Shropshire's Curry Chef of the Year.
Since then, Husen has swept all before him. He's won a series of national curry titles, been invited to fly to Bangladesh to pass on his tips and even appeared on a BBC One prime time Saturday night show John Bishop's Britain.
Husen proved such a hit with the British viewing public he became a fully-fledged celeb, enjoying his 15 minutes in the sunshine, while maintaining high standards at his restaurant.
Husen's Shrewsbury restaurant retained its Curry Chef of the Year title this year and opened a new dining room at its premises in Hill's Lane, Shrewsbury.
Husen is an engaging man and I've eaten at his restaurant on a number of occasions. There are two reasons for having done so: firstly, the food is a delight. Husen and his brigade of chefs have good cooking skills. They are subtle, never overwhelming their diners with the sledgehammer of too much chilli. Their food is balanced and delicate, it's surprisingly light too.
The second reason is their service: Cafe Saffron's waiters are a class act. They get to know their regulars, addressing customers on first name terms. They are confident and assured, their service is efficient and attentive.
In recent months, Cafe Saffron has been looking to expand its burgeoning empire.
Cafe Saffron 2 has opened at the Admiral Duncan Inn, at Baschurch. The premises have been divided in two, with the left portion being retained for drinks, darts and chat. The right portion has been restyled as two dining rooms, providing a restaurant setting for customers, as well as offering a take away service.
The format works. Drinkers who find themselves peckish come 10pm can simply pop into the pub's former lounge, to order a korma. Take away trade is brisk, as the venue caters to a large expanse between Shrewsbury and North Shropshire that has been hitherto under-served by Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants.
It's location as part of the Admiral Duncan Inn works beautifully. There is invariably a good atmosphere, with the people in the packed bar close at hand. The two separate businesses are complimentary. Any idea that one business might dominate the other, or that the pub might lose trade to the restaurant, seems to have been quashed in a busy opening period.
My friend and I ordered a selection of starters and mains: we were keen to see whether the new restaurant has replicated the high standards of the Shrewsbury venue and we were not disappointed.
We started with a platter of popadoms and dips, which were satisfying and tasty, before enjoying onion bhaji and a heady tawa chicken. Deliciously tender cubes of chicken were served with onions and peppers that had been scorched, providing bags of flavour. It was delicious.
We shared a number of curries for our main course, including a chicken tikka massala. The chicken had been marinated in yoghurt and spices and was served in a tomato cream sauce. It was very enjoyable.
A chicken pathia was an intoxicating and exotic blend of sweet and sour flavours, served in great style, while a korma was mild and provided a perfect balance. We ate a number of accompaniments, including delightful fluffy naan that ballooned to the size of pillows. There was a mixed salad and pillau rice, creating a real feast.
The service was exceptional throughout the evening. Waiters made repeat visits to the table, to make sure we were happy.
There's little doubt that the new Cafe Saffron will prove a success.
In time the restaurant will undoubtedly be given a complete makeover, giving it the sort of style that customers at the Shrewsbury branch enjoy. But for now, excellent service and exquisite food are the recipe for enjoyable dining.
I'll wager that it won't be long before Cafe Saffron 3 pops up.
Cafe Saffron 2, Admiral Duncan Inn, Newtown Gardens, Baschurch, Shrewsbury SY4 2AY
Tel: 01939 262521