Set on Berkeley Square next to a Bentley dealership, Indian restaurant Benares boasts an address-to-impress, and a Michelin star to match.
In fact, chef Atul Kochhar was the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star, and since opening Benares in London ten years ago has found time to write two acclaimed recipe books. Kochhar is also a regular on British TV screens, and famously beat Gary Rhodes in a competition to cook for the queen in Great British Menu.
Yet despite the accolades, Kochhar remains wonderfully humble, and continues to produce sensational dishes with seemingly little effort. The tasting menu is the best way to enjoy a range of Kochhar’s creations. The mutton mulligatawny soup is a fine reinvention of this Anglo-Indian classic, and sets the tone for what’s to come—a very happy marriage of Indian flavors and British ingredients. Que the bitesize chaat of home-smoked Gressingham duck breast with pear and spring onion, followed by tandoori-roasted Scottish scallop with a medley of cauliflower, and a tender rack of Cornish lamb with polenta, pickled artichoke and spinach.
A nice coup de théâtre is the samosa, which Kochhar has adapted for the sweet tooth. Each of the traditional savory ingredients has been replaced with a sweet replica, which you will have to discover yourself. The wine pairings are well judged and professionally presented, with highlights including the 2009 Waipara Springs Riesling from New Zealand and the Hungarian Tokaji Late Harvest dessert wine from 2011. For a zingy digestif, try the passion fruit and chutney martini.
The restaurant was redesigned in 2010, and today the décor strikes a perfect balance between luxury and charm. The dining room has the muted tone of classic fine dining, yet the front of house staff is fantastically friendly. The restaurant now has a kitchen-facing Chef’s Table for up to six guests, a Sommelier’s Table surrounded by the extensive wine collection, and five private dining rooms for six to 30 guests.