Who is Marven Azize: I am the owner and manager of Saffron Restaurant in Kingston.
Best recent dining experience: I’d probably say a place called Black Bar and Grill in the Star complex in Sydney. Essentially it’s a steakhouse and it had a really nice vibe. My wife and I had gone together and thought the service was really good and, of course, the food was amazing. We had such a great experience.
Favourite cuisine: It’s going to sound a little biased, but definitely Lebanese food. I grew up eating that type of food and I know it’s healthy and always made fresh, so I really love the cuisine.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Probably a ready-made salsa – as after a long day, if you want something quick and easy, it’s perfect because it’s in the tin and ready to go.
What ingredient can I not live without: I really love lentils, I know they’re not popular, but they’re something I could eat forever.
Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: Food vans seem to be doing well over the last couple of years, and places that offer both dining and drinking are popping off again.
Best coffee spot in Canberra: There’s a place called Mavi Café in Phillip. I’ve had the coffee a few times and it’s really good. I can’t go wrong with an extra hot flat white. It’s my go-to!
Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: There are a lot of good food operators and business owners in Canberra, so it’s hard to choose one person. The Buvette Bistro & Wine Bar at the Hotel Realm is probably one of the places I admire. The food is really good there and even though the waiters and chefs are under the pump a lot of the time, you always see a smile on their faces, and that’s something that I really admire.
Where am I travelling to next: I’m hoping to go back home to Lebanon as travelling is definitely on the cards. If we do go, my 10-year-old son would love to go to Dubai to see the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa.
Biggest culinary influence: Definitely my mum. She’s just such a good cook. When I was growing up, she’d cook us delicious meals every day and would go out of her way to make new things at least 3 or 4 times a week and incorporate so many tasty flavours. Whenever I want a good feed, even now, mum’s house is the way to go!
What are this week’s specials at Saffron?: We don’t do regular specials, but at the moment, we are offering a slow-cooked lamb shoulder cooked in a Moroccan tagine, which is paired nicely with cous cous and vegetables.
Death row meal: It sounds very typical coming from a male, but I love a good, well-cooked steak.
My least favourite food: I really don’t have any; I’m open to trying anything.
COVID-19 response: It was definitely a tough time during the lockdowns. We were hoping we could get into the takeaway market, which we did, but it wasn’t exactly how we wanted it to be. We struggled like many Canberra restaurants did, as some closed over lockdown, some did takeaway and then we were also limited with capacity, but we came through.
My top three cooking tips:
- Always use fresh ingredients.
- Keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate things – simplicity always delivers good flavours.
- Be authentic with your cooking and to what you want to create, stick to the traditional dish.
Saffron Restaurant is open Monday to Sunday, from 12 pm to 2 pm for lunch and from 6 pm for dinner. It is located at 31 Kennedy Street, Kingston.