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One Michelin Star, London

Reviewed by Justine Murphy, CEO of mymuybueno – January 2017

Atul Kochhar was the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star and Benares Restaurant received its very own Michelin star in January 2007 and has retained it ever since.

It is ranked among the top best Indian Restaurants in London, situated right in the heart of Mayfair. Atul uses British ingredients to make Indian dishes and creates exciting new dishes and fusion flavours. He was not present on my visit.

I opted for the Tasting Menu. This started with an Amuse Bouche of mini poppadums, made with lentil flour, and a trio of chutneys – Apricot, Rosemary and Tomato. These were tasty, and the apricot was especially good.

This was followed by Aloo Chat, which was a warm potato salad topped with a cold yoghurt foam and pomegranate seeds. This felt like it should not work, but it did. With creamy potatoes and lots of fresh mint, it was a nice opening light taste to freshen the palate.

 

Pan-Seared Scallop. Caramelised Onion, Pine Nut Podi with Indian Five Spice Pickled Prawns. A beautiful, big, juicy, well-cooked and seasoned scallop, with five spices of fennel, cumin, ginger, fenugreek and onion seed. It sat on a bed of celeriac with pine nut podi (which means powder), delicious juicy sweet prawns and a delicate caramelised apple and ginger purée. It was beautifully presented and full of so many outstanding spices and flavours.

A beautiful, big, juicy, well-cooked and seasoned scallop, with five spices of fennel, cumin, ginger, fenugreek and onion seed.

Tandoori Chicken Tikka Pie, Mixed Berry Chutney. This was interesting. I’m not a huge pie fan, but I remained optimistic. Moist tandoori-cooked chicken lined the filling, with onion, fennel and coriander. It was accompanied by the sharp berry chutney, which cut through the buttery richness of the perfectly flaky puff pastry. It was nice, but didn’t do too much for me.

Chargrilled Scottish Salmon, Coconut and Curry Leaf Sauce with Tandoori Broccoli (my guests had a Cornish Crab Croquette) with Smoked Tomato Chutney. This was a good dish. I couldn’t have the crab but my guests said was very nice. This had been substituted for me with broccoli (called a ‘Phool’), whichw as lovely and the whole dish sung. A vibrant yellow coconut and curry leaf sauce, a ‘Moilee’ (of which extra was served to the side) had notes of garlic and ginger running through it. Sweet and sour smoked beetroot and tomato purée really enhanced the dish and complemented the salmon. Very nice.

Iced Sherbet. This was a palate cleanser made with fresh mint and Calamansi lime. It was very sharp, which of course worked well to cleanse my palate, but almost erred on the point of being too bitter from the lime. It was over-zested and there was too much white pith in the mix. My palate was stripped of all previous flavours, but I did not enjoy it and one of my guests shared the same sentiment.

Roasted Rump of English Lamb, Tandoori Cutlet, Rogan Jus, Dal Makhani. The tandoor was made with red chilli and ginger, and the cutlet was pink and perfectly cooked, as was the piece of rump. This was outstandingly good. What a dish. A serving of a buttery, beautiful naan, black dahl, and a cumin and saffron rice came for us to share. Just exceptional, I wanted it to last so much longer but my plate was quickly cleaned and every morsel gone.

The tandoor was made with red chilli and ginger, and the cutlet pink and perfectly cooked, as was the piece of rump. This was outstandingly good.

Onto dessert, which was Raspberry Doi, Gulab Jamum Brulée. This is where it fell down slightly. My expectations were not high for a show-stopping pudding, because if you come to an Indian restaurant you really can’t expect it to be anything more than just okay. If it is, then credit to them for taking the care to have a pastry chef working solely on amazing desserts, but I was here for Indian and that was delivered. It was standard brulée and a rosewater creamy pot. All was sweet and still worked as a satisfying finish to a very good meal.

The same went for the Petit Fours, which were a very British mix of not-great fudge, and a take on fruit pastilles. They were a bit sweet and sickly. I almost would have preferred a more traditional Indian sweet finish, as this was trying to be something it’s not. I tasted and put back.  

Wine:
Joh Jos Prüm. Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany, 2014
Muddy Water, Pinot Noir, Waipara, New Zealand, 2013
Favourite Dish: The lamb dish was beyond exceptional.
Napkin Fold: Yes. However, my napkin was quite dirty from wiping my mouth from my lamb dish, so stained with spice, yet it was only refolded and not replaced.
Menu to take home: Yes, and the kind gesture of Atul’s cookbook too.
Meal for two, including drinks and service: £250.
Final Thought: It was a delicious meal, and there was a great vibe in the restaurant, with tables turning and a real hive of activity. The staff worked smoothly and like a well-oiled machine. They were courteous with just the right balance of service, without being intrusive. I would say however that the restaurant itself felt quite dated, even the walk to the toilets made it feel like it was an old nightclub – perhaps it used to be. It could elevate its surroundings to amplify the whole experience and bring it on par with the food, which was very good. I am really looking forward to returning to try normal curry dishes, confident that they will be exceptional too.

Benares
Address: 12a, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BS
Telephone: + 44 (0) 20 7629 8886
Hours: Monday – Saturday (including bank holidays)
Lunch: 12.30pm – 2.30pm
Dinner only 6pm – 9.45pm

Website: http://www.benaresrestaurant.com