Benares serves up-to-date Indian food to London diners.
Recently I pondered the question: why do people eat out? Here are a few reasons I came up with:
- For a treat
- It saves time
- No dirty dishes
- For social occasions
- They can’t cook
- To be inspired (in my case anyway)
Next question. Why do people eat at Michelin restaurants?
And that’s where I’m dumbfounded. While it certainly weeds out the lager louts and slappers, the first problem is the price. Don’t get me wrong. If I were a millionaire I would be hitting up every Michelin joint in town out of sheer curiosity and for bragging rights.
There is no doubt that a lot of thought, creativity and labour have gone into each Michelin starred menu ever devised. Some of the dishes remain questionable though. Let’s take Snails with Chocolate Sauce as an example. Yes, I made that one up but it’s only a matter of time someone’s going to execute it. Chances are guests would gasp in admiration and then mumble something about floral notes while consuming it. Would I want to try some? Sure. Would I actually enjoy it? Probably not.
Some say it’s all about the experience. I say sod it, I want food. Perhaps I’m just a hillbilly who doesn’t know any better. Perhaps not.
So in the Michelin world of foam, skid marks and things that aren’t what they seem Benares actually serves real food. Using French techniques and superb British ingredients Atul Kochhar has changed the Indian dining scene forever. Whereas most traditional Indian food are served in bowls, dishes here are served elegantly with different ingredients shining through clever presentation.
Our starter was three different types of fish, each with a different marinade, cooked in the tandoor served with a Minted Onions and Cucumber Salad and Yogurt Dip. The tiny pieces of pickled cauliflower, shallots and artichoke cut through the richness of the salmon and sea bass which made this a well-balanced dish.
The duck breast was velvety tender and the confit duck leg came in a samosa. They were served with an Indian twist on the French cassoulet; kidney beans, butter beans and broad beans simmered in spiced duck stock.
The roasted lamb rack with spinach puree, crispy polenta cake and pickled vegetables came with equal finesse and I especially liked Benares’ play on the old and the new by serving Lamb Saag alongside it, which is basically the traditional version of the aforementioned dish.
For cocktail lovers, the Passion Fruit Chutney Martini is a must. Fruity and sweet in the mouth, the chili gives the throat a gentle tingle as it goes down.
Modern indian food with style, minus the pretention gets two thumbs up from me!
Lastly, I sat at the chef’s table and watched the calm kitchen staff busy at work. Not once throughout the service did anyone yell and no animosity was detected. All the chefs worked like one well-oiled machine producing one quality dish after the other. Take note, Gordon Ramsay.
8/10: Although I didn’t have dessert, all the other courses’ quality remained consistent throughout the meal. Most of the food had a bite but not overwhelmingly so.
7/10: I was stuffed after two courses.
9/10: Friendly, attentive and efficient.
6/10: Great interior but more mopping up needs to be done during meal times.
8/10: The restaurant is quite dark but has a relaxed feel to it and none of the hush-hush whispering business.
8/10: A must visit if you want to see Indian food in a new light.
12a Berkeley Square House