- Visit Date: Saturday 12th August 2023
- Restaurant: Benares
- Address: 12a Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BS
Benares: A Symphony of Indian Flavours.
Returning to Benares after a great many years, my last review here was back in 2017. Sameer was here before working under Atul, and returned to run the show himself, and is doing an absolutely incredible job. I met Sameer at the Michelin ceremony earlier this year, and had been promising that I would make time in my crazy schedule to visit, and here I finally am. And my goodness, it did not disappoint. 11 amazing courses, each one just as delicious as the next.
From the outset, Sameer’s passion and love of ingredients is evident. So much flavour in each bite but nothing overpowering or taking away from the main ingredient.
Starting with street snacks, reminiscent of Indian bazaars, these are presented on a whimsical little tree. Followed by a pan puri which was so good, a burst of cold, herbaceous liquid was so invigorating, balanced with a harmony of spices.
Every bite of the traditional Indian street foods is an evocative journey. The marriage of sweet and sour flavours is beautifully evident. The mint and coriander water transports one straight to the bustling streets of Delhi.
The bird dish was delightful, a blend of pigeon and quail.
I loved the little cup of soup to follow, chicken and chestnut paired with black truffle. It was like a warm, comforting hug and I could have devoured an entire bowl. The paying homage to other ingredients such as the truffle, really makes all that Sameer is doing, stand out further.
The oyster, light and clean with just the right amount of spice, was paired wonderfully with sea bream, avocado purée, and chickpea pearls.
The scallop, cooked in a sauce enriched with garam masala and coconut milk, was comforting yet tantalizingly spicy.
The halibut, though spiced, allowed the inherent flavours of the fish to shine through, complemented by the sweet-savoury-spicy notes of blood orange. Plump juicy clams. Garam masala. I loved this dish.
Next came a lemon and pine syrup palate cleanser, with soda, this little glass of goodness perfectly cleansed my palate from all the fish and seafood. Very clever.
As we moved to the meats, the Muntjac kebab was a revelation – tender, spicy, and perfectly cooked, it was a masterclass in flavour balancing, it was perfectly cooked and an ingredient I wouldn’t usually think to pair with Indian flavours, but Sameer nailed it here. Chilli jam, garlic yoghurt, coriander all shone through.
The Poisson tikka masala was rich and velvety, and the black lentil dahl, simmered to perfection, was pure indulgence, the rice with saffron and onions matched perfectly and the paratha was heaven. If I was home in my comfies, I would have devoured it all. This was a lick the plate dish.
The tomato and strawberry sorbet, the cucumber granita, with the Malay kulfi were all revelations. But the standout was the rose pearls that burst with flavour alongside the watermelon. Basil jelly and saffron milk made this ending, fresh and light. This was a clean tasting finale that worked really well and ticked all the boxes without pushing you over the edge or being rich which you don’t want after such a meal.
Petit fours, the fig leaf being my favourite, tasting like candy floss, I enjoyed a chai tea while Sameer joined me.
I absolutely loved it all, and will return with friends for sure, this isn’t a meal to eat alone, you want to be able to break bread with others, so I will be back.
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