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What we’ve been up to… Benares

It’s been 12 years since Atul Kochhar opened Benares and his philosophy hasn’t shifted: serve  modern Indian food with a British flair and the people will come. By lunch time on Wednesday, the main dining room has got a respectable number of diners (and I’m told by operations manager Arnaud that the 150-cover venue will be effortlessly jam packed by the evening). Benares is the sort of place that will always attract the Mayfair locals – the interiors are mod, the service is sincere – but if you ever had doubts about Indian cuisine, this is also a very necessary destination for the skeptics.

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Overwhelming flavours and spices that are typical of Asian cooking are dialled down to let creative dishes shine on their own merits of varied and fresh ingredients. A beautiful soft shell crab appetiser is paired with an apple relish and coronation slaw, with hints of mild curry. Then there’s my venison main course, which goes one better; the meat is perfectly pink, served with a biryani and baby aubergine in a sesame and ginger gravy. As this is fine dining, the portions are quaint, but rich enough to leave you satisfied – and any holes were soon filled with sides of their signature dal and naan. To wrap up, their chocolate banana torte with moist mocha cake is a strong choice. It’s not only gorgeous to look at but a worthy finale to a exceptional meal.

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Benares is fancy, no doubt, but holds back on the airs and graces to serve excellent Indian cuisine with a genuine desire to change the game. Mind you, it’s an experience that will cost you a pretty penny (well, quite a few of those), but what you’ll get in return is quite priceless.

For more information about Benares visit: www.benaresrestaurant.com

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