Benares – Indian in Mayfair, W1

Michelin starred Indian restaurant on Berkeley Square

Celebrity chef, Atul Kochhar may well be a familiar face, if you’re a fan of cookery programmes like Saturday Kitchen. And he’s the chef behind Michelin star restaurant Benares in London’s Mayfair, with a reputation for blending upscale Indian cuisine with British style.

Benares has been on my ‘to visit’ list for years. And GH’s arrival in London today (from the Caribbean) provided the perfect excuse to go and treat ourselves to a Christmas dinner with a difference. Starting with cocktails in the relaxing bar lounge this Friday afternoon, I had a gorgeous Saffron Daisy gin cocktail @ £14.00 (Sipsmith premium London dry gin with handpicked saffron, cardamom, sugar and lemon juice).

 

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Benares bar lounge

 

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Cocktails at Benares – saffron daisy gin (foreground), reverse vesper vodka martini (back), pineapple and ginger mojito (right)

 

We had a 2.30pm table reservation for our party of three. Not realising that the kitchen closes mid-afternoon between lunch and dinner sittings, we were politely hurried to our table (in the rather plain and dark restaurant) and encouraged to order quickly, as the kitchen was – very kindly! – being kept open for us. A bottle of picpoul de pinet (dry white wine) @ £29 and the two-course Christmas dinner menu @ £37.00 seemed appropriate for our festivities.

 

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Benares interior – dark and uninspiring

 

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Poppodoms and fruity chutneys + saffron daisy gin cocktail

 

For starters, GH and I both ordered vegetable and edamame bean seekh kebab with walnut chutney (a tantilising blend of flavours – just stunning), while GN had potato and pea samosa chaat with rose yoghurt and date and tamarind chutney.

 

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Vegetable + edamame bean seekh kebab with walnut chutney

 

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Potato and pea samosa chaat

 

For main course, GH and GN had grilled paneer with punjabi chickpeas, while I had kokum flavoured Mangalorean haddock curry with spicy tapioca mash, accompanied by a variety of rices and Indian flat breads (all of which was a treat for the senses and faultless).

 

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Grilled paneer with punjabi chickpeas

 

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Mangalorean haddock curry

 

While the portions might look quite small, we found them deceivingly filling (including complimentary bar nuts and poppodoms, along with sides of bread and rice, etc). Despite being full, it didn’t seem right to forfeit Christmas pudding so we shared one between us – a fab idea (Spiced. Perfect. Beautifully presented).

 

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Garam masala spiced Christmas pudding with vanilla bean + brandy sauce with raspberries and holly-shaped fruity sauce

 

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Novelty factor – expanding steaming flannels

 

Our waitress served what looked like a tray of mints, then poured hot water over them. The white balls started to expand, initially looking like something to eat, before fully growing into a tower – a steaming hot flannel – sterile for cleansing, and beautifully presented.
 

The verdict:
The food at Benares is Indian with a twist and is simply stunning. And there’s an excellent cocktail menu and wine list. While it’s a pricey, fine-dining restaurant, there are some affordable good wines on the list (eg. picpoul de pinet @ £29.00 a bottle). Eating here is definitely an experience that you pay a bit more for. And it’s worth it (our bill for three came to £270.00 including service).

Serving staff were on the ball, although – on our visit – there was an abundance of servers and, if anything, could have asked us if everything was ok less frequently.

While Benares is in a premium location on Berkeley Square in the heart of Mayfair, you wouldn’t know it once you’re seated in the first floor restaurant: there are no windows, it’s dark albeit with soft mood lighting. If the intention is ‘plain and simple’, I found the interior rather dull and uninspiring.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Indian
~ Address: 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London
~ Postcode: W1J 6BS
~ Nearest station: Green Park, Piccadilly, Oxford Circus
~ Website + menus: Benares website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Benares
~ Location: Benares map

 

Benares Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

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