Named after the fragrant and very dear spice with which many of its dishes are flavoured, Ponsonby Road's unassuming Saffron is a beloved local and student favourite.
It dishes up authentic, affordable South Indian cuisine, and is usually packed to the rafters due to two exceptionally good deals: $11 for any main (curry, rice and naan) with a beer or wine – that's lunch only, but still – and a $12.90 all-you-can-eat brunch buffet on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Bookings are highly recommended for the latter.
If you're ordering a la carte, don't skip the Mysore Chilli Chicken or Kheema Dosa (spicy, garlicky lamb mince stuffed inside an Indian-style crepe). If you're vegetarian the Thali is an excellence choice, as it gives you a taste of everything – rice, naan, seasoned veggies, yoghurt, poppadum, and pickle served in a traditional stainless steel platter.
While the décor or ambience isn't anything to write home about, Saffron is nice and clean, the staff is always pleasant and the crowds are cheerful. Most importantly, the food is fresh and full of flavour, and never toned down to European tastes.
Oh, and the cherry on top? It's BYO.