For a special occasions it is well worth considering the Benares Chef’s Table. It is the best chef’s table we have dined at so far in London and highly recommend it if you are looking for a special private dining room. You’ll find Benares restaurant on Berkeley Square in the heart of fashionable Mayfair. Benares is a Michelin stared restaurant and is owned by Atul Kochhar, the very first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star.
Benares chef’s table is in a atmospherically darkened raised room with the table set against a huge window that spans across most of the kitchen. You get to see the tandoori, curry and sauce sections. You can also see all the action at the pass where the head chef interacts with the waiters.
Andy and I had previous had Lunch At Benares in the main dining room, and was blown away with the exquisite Indian food. Atul is known for being the vanguard of Indian food. So, when it was Andy’s 50th birthday, and the kids were looking for somewhere really special to book a celebratory meal, I mentioned how excited Andy had been when he spotted the chefs table here.
It was great to see the guys dress up smart in their Steed jackets.
You head upstairs straight into the sultry bar. They serve the most incredible cocktails here! So, my advice would be to arrive half an hour early so you can sample at least one!
The cocktail waiters are in constant motion. You’ll see all kinds of techniques going on. One day, I’d love to sit at the bar and watch it all up close.
The cocktails are of a really high standard and you’ll find a few with a really fun element. Mine had a limoncello sorbet in a cone on top!
James’s was smoked in a jar and poured over the orange zest.
After a while of enjoying the delights of the bar we were taken to the table. We are a party of 6 but it can accommodate 9. The room wasn’t as dark as this picture suggests but it’ll give you an idea of how up close and personal we were with the head chef and his kitchen.
The Head chef (below with the beard) was pointed out to us and all the sections of the kitchen. It was ridiculously exciting. We almost felt involved in the cooking processes.
You get a choice here of À la Carte and Tasting menus, both with matching wine options.
We all opted for the tasting menu. I think that you either all go ‘tasting’ or just stick to the À la Carte. We didn’t go for the wine tasting, although we would have loved it.
Time flies pretty quickly with so much activity to watch and talk about in the kitchen.
An amuse bouche of moderately spiced sweet potato arrived with a light airy cream over the top.
The Michelin stared kitchen was in full swing. You don’t get to hear anything through the glass window, but it’s easy to imagine the clattering of saucepans.
The chefs work quickly, but there is a calm, organised and highly professional atmosphere.
Our shellfish dish arrived and incredible smells rose up from the plates.
It’s exciting to try so many incredible morsels on one plate. The scallop and prawn had sweet caramelised crust and soft flesh.
We actually saw the scallops being cooked and the plates being finished at the pass. It builds a great sense of anticipation!
As we discuss the art of cooking spices well and how Atul’s food is so incredibly balanced, our wine gets topped up. The service has been seamless all evening.
The next course were crispy looking tandoori chicken tikka pies, with golden puff pastry. Each one was to share between two.
It comes with a slightly tart mixed berry chutney. It’s a highly comforting dish.
The next two dishes have elements from the tandoor oven. I love seeing the giant skewers full of spiced meat coming out of the oven charred and delicious looking.
The bread gets cooked here too. All night the chef was forming them by hand.
The next dish was a sublime chargrilled Scottish salmon. We had seen our Cornish crab croquettes get deep fried. It adds a whole other dimension to eating at a restaurant. Expectation builds as you watch elements come together in the kitchen.
Spiced vermicelli, by the way, is fabulous! Have you ever tried these noodles? I recommend you do if you get the chance. They are a really nice alternative to basmati rice.
There is a mild curry leaf sauce with this dish, which brings the whole thing together, and some of the bread we watched being made. It was no ordinary naan bread, rather it was exceptionally flavoured with cheese, spices and herbs.
Our evening was going wonderfully. We always enjoy being together and in the confines of our own private dining room we felt free to take tonnes of photos, chatter loudly, laugh out loud and pose for photos to our hearts content.
The action in the kitchen continued, showing no signs of slowing down. I have never seen so many saucepans being used anywhere before, even when my son and husband cook together!
We had a little breather and was served this refreshing watermelon and ginger iced sherbet. It is designed to cleanse the palette and it really does. I’ve never had this combo before. It’s delicious!
I can’t remember what it was that got the boys laughing so much this time, but for once I didn’t have to “shhh” them. We weren’t disturbing any other guests and the laughter was contagious!
The head chef popped in to say ‘Hi’. We were so delighted to meet him this side of the glass. He was really smily and said that the chefs were enjoying our company, which was great.
He kept a tight ship in the kitchen and calmly checked on the chefs in their various sections. There were still plenty of smiles between them and the odd wave to us. It was a happy and efficient kitchen, making watching them all the more pleasurable. It was fascinating to watch how a Michelin star kitchen runs.
One more bottle of wine was ordered for our last course. The sommelier was very knowledgable which is always enjoyed by my husband who loves to learn more about wines at every chance.
Our final savoury dish was served. It was this roasted rump of lamb and tandoori cutlet, which was deliciously charred on the outside with soft pink meat inside. The knife cuts straight through. The flavours were deep, rich and actual groans of pleasure chorused round the table!
There wasn’t one dish that wasn’t a hit and seeing the cooking through the huge window was an incredibly special experience.
You don’t have a view of the pastry kitchen, so as we were cleansing ourselves with hot towels we had no idea how the dessert would look.
Meanwhile, we finished up the last of the wine before our dessert, the chefs were still preparing savoury dishes for diners within the restaurant.
When perfectly executed desserts were placed in front of us they looked divine.
The small pot of spiced chocolate lava cake was incredibly rich and intensely chocolatey. The rose bhapa doi was a delightful surprise Soft creaminess and a refreshing rose jelly of sorts was the perfect finish to an outstanding meal.
We were served petit fours, but we only managed a nibble as we were so full (the almond crisp was my favourite).
I may have mentioned we were celebrating my husbands 50th birthday and he was surprised with an extra dessert with a candle.
Not only that, he was presented with a signed copy of Atul Kochhar’s ‘Curries Of The World’ book. It was such a nice touch and Andy was delighted…
Needless to say we are huge fans of this restaurant and would thoroughly recommend booking the Benares Chef’s Table. The service, food, cocktails and atmosphere have been exceptional. It is very pricy (we were very lucky that our children generously contributed for their Dad’s birthday). If you can manage it, it would be a night that you’ll remember for a very long time.
Benares Chef’s Table, 12a Berkeley Square House, Mayfair, London, W1J 6BS.
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