I had two very exciting things happen to me last week. The first being named as "Review of the Day" by Bookatable for my blog on Sexy Fish! I was an extremely happy girl. Secondly, I was contacted by Benares in Mayfair to enjoy a meal at their restaurant. Obviously I accepted!
Benares is a Michelin starred Indian restaurant, which is a cuisine that I don't usually have when I go out to dinner, but I thought this was a great opportunity to try something new. If you are a Masterchef fan then you will know the Chef Patron Atul Kochhar, so I was a little star struck at the idea of going to his restaurant.
Benares is situated on Berkley Square in Mayfair, one of my favourite areas of London. Walking in was like a transportation to India. It was glorious weather outside and upon entering Benares it was dark, aromatic and intimate. The restaurant and bar are located upstairs so there are no windows but this is matched by perfect dimly lit booths and low ceiling lights. An atmosphere that I hadn't yet encountered.
A point I must make here - the service was incredible. I have never had such attentive table service. For example my waiter was from Bangladesh and this knowledge of food was amazing. He knew all the flavours and explained every dish by ingredient and this made the serving service very authentic.
Once seated, the manager started Andrea and I off with a house cocktail. I had the Passion Fruit Chutney Martini which was a combination of house made passion fruit chutney, Wyborowa vodka, fresh lemon juice, sugar and a dash of passion fruit juice. Also hidden in it was a dash of chilli and this was made apparent when you took a sip and received a warm tingle in the back of your throat. Andrea had a Green Spice Martini which included Wyborowa vodka shaken over a coriander and cumin syrup, fresh root ginger, fresh lemon juice and Elderflower Cordial, offer your pallet a warming zing of Indian flavours. Topped with a roasted Cumin Marshmallow. They were both so lovely and a great start to our meal. Especially the cumin marshmallow, I could have eaten 100 of those! On the table came a small wooden b ox filled with small popadoms accompanied by three chutneys - tomato, gooseberry and apricot.
The A La Carte menu had so much to offer. A great variety of dishes and for myself, who doesn't eat a lot of Indian food, I was curious to try anything. To start, I chose the Bhangra Koliwada with crispy Chilli, Lime and Ginger Marinated Cornish Mackerel, Gem Lettuce Salad, Garlic and Tomato Raita. Andrea chose the Tandoori Ratan with chargrilled Sea Bass, Chicken Tikka, Ajwaini King Prawn, Lamb Seekh Kebab. For a starter I would say that both dishes were quite a generous size. I had three pieces of mackerel and I was getting full, especially after the popadoms! The mackerel was extremely delicious. It was cooked in a very light tempura batter, but it wasn't oily, it was more of a light crunch, coated in a chilli and ginger powder. Because of the heat, the garlic and tomato raita took the edge of just slightly so you could still taste the amazing flavours. Andrea's dish was also great. The aromatic flavours of the ajwaini kind prawn were to die for. Extremely meaty and buttery. What was great about his dish was he got to try a small selection of different meats and fish to gain a real insight to Indian cuisine.
To choose a main was like a child in a sweet shop. I wanted it all. After much deliberation, I chose the Tandoori Macchi Aur Kekda with chargrilled Scottish Salmon, Spiced Vermicelli, Crab Croquette, Moilee Sauce. (Fish again I know!) Whilst Andrea went for a classic Indian dish, Tandoori Murg with, old Delhi Style Classic Tandoori Chicken, Makhani Sauce, Mango and Mint Dressed Salad. I also asked the waiter what sides best went with the dish, so we had rice, naan bread, and some dal lentils. As you can see the vibrant colours in both of our dishes were outstanding. The contrast between the white tables and the food was like Jackson Pollock painting. Colours everywhere you looked. Andrea's chicken was a vivid orange with a green salad. Hidden away were tiny ruby gems of pomegranate. I couldn't believe how big the portion of chicken was, in comparison to other restaurants. Now we all know that I am a sucker for presentation so when my dish was placed on the table, I was immediately drawn in. Two succulent pieces of salmon, a crunchy crab croquette and a stunning beetroot sauce. Incredible. The salmon and the noodle salad were soft and melted in your mouth whilst the croquette added texture and heat into the dish. The sauce that came with the salmon was a coconut curry sauce, similar to a mild korma so this gave a hint of sweetness. It all worked harmoniously.
We also had another round of cocktails, this time going to something a little more fruity. I had a lychee and rose bellini and Andrea had a violet and blueberry one.
After feeling like I had been eating for a thousand years, the dessert menu arrived and I honestly didn't know if I was able to have dessert. After having a rest for 20 minutes or so, I felt that leaving without dessert would be an awful decision. I knew exactly what I wanted. I ordered the Peanut Butter Parfait, Almond Cake, Cumin Marshmallow, Jaggery Ice Cream. Andrea had the Dark Chocolate Mousse, Passion Fruit, Yoghurt Ice Cream. They too came out as masterpieces. Out lovely waiter poured a hot chocolate sauce over the chocolate bomb that Andrea had and we all sat and watched it melt away into a chocolate lava. The fruit on the plate came to life against the dark chocolate background. The passionfruit sauce gave the dish a real zing. My plate captured my heart immediately. It ticked all the right boxes. Creamy, smooth, crunchy, cold, warm. Everything. It reminded me slightly of eating a deconstructed Snickers bar from the crunchy textures and the peanut flavours. I think it did push me over the edge slightly, but I do not regret a thing.
I would like to thank Maegan for inviting Andrea and I to Benares for a wonderful meal, the chefs who cooked outstandingly and the waiters who gave us the ultimate Benares experience.
If you are interested in Benares they have the A La Carte menu and the set menu which I must say looked equally as delicious as a lot of tables surrounding us were having it.
Main Menu: http://www.benaresrestaurant.com/menus/a-la-carte/
Set Menu: http://www.benaresrestaurant.com/menus/set-menu/
12a Berkeley Square House,
+44 (0)20 7629 8886