London is renowned for being one of the most diverse and exciting restaurant capitals in the world, with new and electrifying food trends continuously taking the city by storm, culinary hotspots in areas that were once not notable for good cuisine and of course celebrity chefs.
With such an abundance of choice, one restaurant still remains a crown jewel in Indian fine dining and a name that is instantly recognisable, Benares Restaurant & Bar.
Benares Restaurant & Bar, as we all know by now, is the first solo venture of two Michelin Star chef Atul Kochhar, which won a Michelin Star in 2007 and has retained the coveted award ever since.
Located in Berkeley Square, the sleek restaurant offers a blend of modern furnishings with traditional Indian adornments.
Please note only the lamb and chicken are halal and the restaurant has an updated menu with a number of new dishes.
Our fine dining expedition began from the “Appetiser” section where we ordered the “Jal Tarang”, which is a new addition to the menu and comprised of pan seared scallops, caramelised apple, ginger purée, pickled celeriac and pine nuts. The scallops were prepared impeccably and had a delectable curried flavour, while the other elements added a tangy, sweet, sour and nutty masala element to the dish. – Recommended
“Tandoori Ratan” consisted of chargrilled sea bass, chicken tikka, king prawn and lamb seekh kebab, which was another new inclusion to the menu. The sea bass was soft and flaked away effortlessly, with a subtle herby and earthy mint piquancy. The chicken tikka was moist and juicy, with a sublime delicate tikka taste. The king prawn was luscious in texture, but lacked any prominent flavour. The lamb kebab was magnificently succulent and tender, which was intricately spiced to deliver a sensational taste. The mint sauce was slightly insipid for our palate, however, what made this dish an exceptional plate of food was the tamarind sauce, which was sweet and spicy, and also provided a heavenly hit of heat that was exquisitely glorious. – Highly Recommended
From the “Main Dishes” we opted for “Tandoori Murg”, which was tandoori chicken, makhani sauce, mango and mint dressed salad. This was once again new to the menu. The chicken was soft and tender, infused with a light smoky, tandoor and subtly spiced tomato makhani sauce that was piquantly satisfying. The salad was refreshingly sweet, zesty and citrusy. Even though all components of the dish were well balanced and executed adroitly, for us, this dish was slightly over shadowed by the other superior offerings from the menu. However, if you adore chicken, this is a dish for you. – Worth a Try
The “Changezi Chaapein”, which is Benares’s signature dish, were smoked tandoori lamb cutlets, sautéed winter vegetables and rogan jus. These were undeniably not just the best chops in London but possibly the whole world. The chops were braised and tenderised in a spiced papaya rub, which provided a soft, butter-like consistency, causing the lamb to literally dissolve in the mouth, whilst providing a phenomenally sweet and savoury taste. The rogan jus was sensational; well balanced spices that bought jubilation to our taste buds. The potatoes tasted like Bombay potatoes and piquantly were resplendent. – Highly Recommended
To conclude our culinary cruise, from the new “Desserts Menu” we chose the “Peanut Butter Parfait, Almond Cake, Cumin Marshmallow, Jaggery Ice Cream”. Please note the marshmallow is not halal, so it was removed for us. The crispy chocolate wafer combined with the smooth peanut butter parfait was exquisite. Jaggery (which is unrefined sugar) ice cream was velvety and sweet. And the almond cake, while pleasant, was out shined by the other components of the dish. – Recommended
The “Dark Chocolate Mousse, Passion Fruit, Yoghurt Ice Cream” does contain gelatine, so do ask for it to be removed, as it was for us. The Dark Chocolate Mousse was a chocolate bomb, which melted away when hot chocolate sauce was poured over it to reveal ice cream. The chocolate was decadently rich, and the sweet fruit cubes helped to balance the richness. This was a triumphantly delicious dessert that provided a pristine end to our meal. – Recommended
During our first visit to Benares last year; whilst we were impressed by the overall experience, we were not thoroughly satisfied by some of the dishes. The flavours in our opinion, were too Anglicised and therefore did not deliver the prodigious Indian flavours that we were yearning for to satisfy our spice accustomed palate.
Our second visit, on many levels, was a complete contrast. The flavours this time round, for a majority of the dishes were bold, bountiful and simply scintillating. The contemporary Indian spices finally delivered authentic flavours that transported our taste buds to a euphoric high of ecstasy. Even a dish during our original visit that was somewhat lacklustre, was mesmerisingly divine.
This time round we left Benares with a sensation of satisfaction and glee, and a child-like excitement in anticipation for our next visit.
Benares Restaurant and Bar
12a, Berkeley Square
London, W1J 6BS
*Disclaimer: We were invited to review the restaurant.