Benares 10th anniversary menuCultureFood & DrinksRestaurant & bar reviews
Feasting at the chef’s table in Berkeley Square’s Benares is a fine-dining experience fit for royalty. The table faces the kitchen where diners can observe the spice genius Atul Kochhar and his team preparing and plating the Michelin-starred dishes that have cemented this restaurant as the home of London’s greatest Indian cuisine over the last ten years.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the food was absolutely outstanding. The onion seed infused Chicken Tikka Cone, filled with a light and sweet pate, was a perfect introduction to the creativity and innovation in taste and presentation for which Kochhar is celebrated. It was cool and delicate, allowing the flavours of garlic and chilli, often hidden in traditionally served tikka masala, to emerge and dance.
Next came the Crispy Soft Shell Crab and Peri-Peri Lobster Cocktail, which has been a Benares signature dish for the past decade. The crispy crab, sweet, juicy and perfectly seasoned, played masterfully with the creamy and cool cocktail with watercress. As far as seafood dishes go, it is hard to find much better in London; it worked brilliantly with the 2011 Viognier’s subtle hints of apricot.
The Fennel Infused Lamb Chop and Mustard Marinated King Prawn was the stand-out plate of the evening. The smoky and rich lamb, with the delightful subtlety of the fennel, was simply sensational. It wasn’t too tender, but instead chunky and wholesome, which added to its elegance. The king prawn was equally pleasing, and combined with a tangy mint chutney infused with black salt and mango powder, the meal became a piece of artwork that was almost too good to eat.
The Meen Moilee (meaning “fresh sauce”) – a pan-roasted wild sea bass with vermicelli and a coconut and curry leaf sauce – tasted even better than it sounds. Inspired by the food of South India, only three spices are used in the dish, which makes it subtle and light and allows each flavour of turmeric, curry and mustard seeds to emerge individually within the coconut milk. The simplicity is the most impressive thing about this dish, and it is anything but basic.
The Roasted Rump of Cornish Lamb, Shoulder Samosa and Purple Potato Mash, and the Rose and Raspberry Bhapa Doi with Pistachio Burfi Dessert both exemplified Kochhar’s mastery of European ingredients that subtly influence his style and flavours.
Overall, Benares is a phenomenal establishment which brings together world-class food, world-class wine and, most importantly, world-class service. There is a genuine passion for culinary excellence among the staff who are friendly, swift and very knowledgeable.
It certainly isn’t cheap, but they do a theatre menu of two courses for £29, and three for £35, which, for a Michelin-starred eatery, is pretty inviting.
Photos: Allie Suwanrumpha
To book a table at Benares, 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, W1J 6BS, call 020 7629 8886 or visit here.