Review: Find global tapas at Saffron in Nelspruit

Set in one of the older suburbs of Nelspruit, Saffron’s deck offers the perfect spot for relaxed tapas and a glass of fine wine or some of the excellent locally made rum. Hennie Fisher samples everything from Texan brisket and southern fried chicken to tom yum soup and lychee ice cream.

The menu changes quarterly, and on the new menu the chef has decided to divide the planet into tapas from the north (predominantly European), south (predominantly South African), east (Asian such as Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Thai) and west (North and South American). This means the Northern menu may feature a variety of little dishes such as Portuguese espetada, duck a l’orange, baked polenta with three cheeses from Italy, and an English apple and berry crumble.

From South Africa, there are venison sosaties, a rump and calamari surf & turf, roast baby chicken, some grilled meats and, of course, a malva pudding with Amarula custard.

The Asian continent contributes a traditional Thai tom yum soup, fillet teriyaki served with a smashed potato, Chinese crispy chicken, vegetable korma and fish curry in a Thai style. The dessert option is a mixed fruit wonton with lychee ice cream.

The food at Saffron. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The food at Saffron. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The West is represented by Cowboy soup (creamy tomato with baked beans and bacon), 20-hour roasted Texan brisket, Southern fried chicken, Cajun calamari with avocado cream, and pecan pie. Some of the tapas can also be ordered as main courses, but not all tapas transition equally well from bite-sized portion to main course portion.

There’s also the possibility to make up a plate from a number of diverse items such as cold meats, cheese, dips and spreads (such as sweetcorn salsa, balsamic onion marmalade and harissa) and Lebanese flatbread, and they also offer set menus that play on the “around the world in 80 minutes” theme.

Owner Steve Moore is passionate about wine and as such is keen to stock predominantly boutique-style wines. The bubblies on offer include Sterhuis MCC and Krone Borealis, and noteworthy whites include Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc, Creation Chardonnay and Howard Booysen Riesling. Red wines include Warwick First Lady, Overgaauw Merlot and Altydgedacht Barbera. Steve likes to support local producers, and he stocks a number of craft beers as well as a fabulous rum made in Malelane, called Mhoba. Just inside the front door is a little glass and wood wine cellar resembling a station master’s office from days gone by, where they also dry some of their house-made charcuterie.

The owner is always on hand to assist with queries and suggestions, switching between the role of maitre d’ and sommelier.

Saffron in Nelspruit. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

Saffron in Nelspruit. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

On the same premises of a guest house called Chez Vincent, this little restaurant is situated in one of the older suburbs of Nelspruit. There is a small deck outside, lovely in summer for drinks and some tapas. The inside has two large seating areas, with the bar straight ahead across from the entrance. The kitchen is partially open to the dining room, which allows for nice views of what is going on back-stage. Cream and burgundy walls, a modern white screed floor and black leather chairs create a modern atmosphere.

The interior at Saffron. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

The interior at Saffron. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.

They cure and dry their own charcuterie, and the home-smoked salmon warrants a special detour to taste it – subtle, but with a curing and smoking that penetrate the entire thickness of the fillet. They also make their own bresaola as well as a lovely cured, smoked and dried duck breast, all available on the tapas menu.

Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read the editorial policy here.

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