A passage to India: Michelin-star dining at Benares, Mayfair

Words by
Charlotte McManus
Photography by
James Byrne

17th October 2018

Dishing up delectable Indian cuisine with a contemporary twist, Benares expertly balances sophistication with an element of surprise

With a prime position on Berkeley Square, Benrares has been a stalwart of clever Indian cuisine since its launch in the spring of 2003. Its two-starred chef patron, Atul Kochhar, is a master of revisiting regional Indian dishes with fresh flair, using top quality British produce. A visit to Benares, with its hushed ambience, artfully presented food and quietly sophisticated environs and, is a real treat – grown-up dining, this.

Arriving on a miserable rain-sodden evening, we start with an aperitif in Benares’ intimate, recently refurbished lounge, all gleaming wood and patterned velvet. The cocktail list is intriguing, complete with a selection of drinks that are a ‘Homage to India’. A green spice martini, with notes of vodka, coriander, cumin and ginger, gives a tantalising hint of what is to come at dinner.

Benares, Mayfair
Tandoori Khumb & Hara Phool

Tandoori Khumb & Hara Phool

Once seated, we opt for the tasting menu, which can be served with a choice of wine pairings – “prestigious” wines or the more affordable “captivating” option. After a flavoursome amuse bouche, our waiter brings a perfectly seared scallop with spiced sesame butter, followed by a playful dish of Darjeeling smoked chalk stream trout. The small but stodgy chicken tikka pie elicits mixed reactions – despite the best efforts of a wonderful 2015 Côte de Burgundy – but a flaky wodge of Scottish salmon redeems matters, served with a scarlet swoosh of coconut and curry leaf sauce alongside a rock oyster pakora. 

A scoop of iced sherbert cleanses the palette – and belt buckles are discreetly loosened – before a plate arrives bearing a generous portion of roasted English lamb rump. Even more generous, potatoes, rice, naan and pots of curry sauce all accompany the meat, which collectively may or may not have contributed to at least one of our party having a snooze in the Uber home.

Benares, Mayfair
Bebinca, Coconut & Kaffir Lime Sorbet with Pepper Jelly & Passion Fruit Foam

Bebinca, Coconut & Kaffir Lime Sorbet with Pepper Jelly & Passion Fruit Foam

To finish, two ramekins of dessert; one a light and perfectly respectable rhubarb bhapa doi, which is completely overshadowed by the wicked chocolate lava cake with a hint of spice – I could have eaten two. A glass of sweet 2016 Brachetto d’Aqui Contero rounds off our very nice evening very nicely. While Benares may be a little more proper and stiff-backed than younger local rivals like Indian Accent and Gymkhana, it is well worth the visit. 

 

For more information on Benares or to make a booking, visit benaresrestaurant.com