Lunch at Benares, Mayfair

I was expecting something special from our lunch at Benares, Mayfair. First of all it’s Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar’s restaurant. You know: lovely face; gentleman; a regular on your favourite food programmes; first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star. Look him up, you’ll recognise him immediately! Secondly, Benares is named after India’s holy city. Expectations were high.

Don’t head to Benares expecting chicken tikka masala. Atul wants you to perceive and experience Indian cuisine in a new and exciting way. He does just this and more.

The interior is full of hand-crafted furniture. The bar seating is particularly beautiful. The bar has an elegant and exotic interior. I think, this describes his food rather well too.

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The elegant and exotic Benares bar

My husband sampled a few wines before settling on an exquisite Viognier.

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Testing the wine

Me? I ordered a Cherry Kiss and I recommend you try one too! A deeply satisfying cocktail and a stunner for Instagram! I’m a huge fan of cherries and this was special.

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Cherry Kiss
Wybrowa Vodka shaken with muddled Maraschino Cherries, Visciolata Cherry Wine, Paan Liqueur, Passion Fruit Pureé and Gomme Syrup.

This water feature is in the bar area adding a vibrancy to the room.

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Water feature

When you sit in the bar you can spot the service hatch and a glimpse into the smart and shiny kitchen.

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Coffee and sweets service hatch

Also, just off the bar is the Private Dining Room. A perfect spot for a large and potentially loud group. There are two other rooms, but this one is nice because you are surrounded by beautiful wine bottles and you get the atmosphere from the bar.

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Private dining room

Best of all, is the Chefs Table. What a great room this is!!? You get an elevated view through a wide window. A great fun room that seats up to six people.

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Chefs table

The restaurant is modern and elegant. For a lunch, you can dress smart casual. So, make sure your man doesn’t turn up in a combo of shorts and bare toes! But, you’ll get away with smart jeans and a shirt/blouse. The atmosphere is both friendly, relaxed and efficient.

The room was mainly filled with couples on tables for two. Intimate tables run around the edge of the room along comfortable banquette seating. There was also a family group and one small business group using the larger tables in the middle of the room. Chatter and laughter was the sound drop.

The lighting is nice. At no time did I feel the need to dodge a down light to avoid unwanted panda eyes.

Best of all, the menus themselves are made of the softest leather. They were really beautiful. It elevated the experience.

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Soft leather clad menus

We were served mini popadoms and 3 dips. But, my husband is a habitual creature and in his eyes, he simply isn’t eating an Indian unless he starts with a coriander/mint dip. Unfazed staff returned in a short while with a little pot of beautifully spiced herb dip. This led to my impressed husband trying to dissect the ingredients. We thought perhaps lime zest…

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Coriander dip

While inspired by his native cuisine and always searching for Indians regional dishes, Atul also has a deep appreciation for British produce. It is this combination that, in the mind and hands of this Michelin starred chef, an inspired and unique plate of food is born.

I chose the soft crab starter and it was an awesome dish. I mean it looks awesome and it takes your taste buds on a wonderful journey. The texture was fantastic too. Yes, I liked this one.

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Karara Kekda
Crispy Soft Shell Crab, Chickpeas with Curry Leaf and Coconut, Tamarind Dressing

Andy chose a simpler stater of mackerel, his favourite fish. Again, perfectly cooked soft fish with that satisfying crunchy coating.

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Bhangra Koliwada
Crispy Chilli, Lime and Ginger Marinated Cornish Mackerel, Gem Lettuce Salad, Garlic and Tomato Raita

This is the venison dish that starred in Celebrity Masterchef. It is incredibly clever food. There are so many different flavours working both separately and in harmony it was an utter delight to eat. Nothing here is over spiced. It’s all about flavour, texture, and letting the ingredients shine out with clever spicing.

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Hiran Ke Pasande – As seen on Celebrity Masterchef
New Forest Venison, Sautéed Kale and Oyster Mushrooms, Biryani, Chocolate Curry

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Andy once again opted for a simpler dish. These lamb cutlets, however, hit the spot. He enjoyed them very much along with the black Dal Makhni and a plain naan.

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Changezi Chaapein
Smoked Tandoori Lamb Cutlets, Sautéed Winter Vegetables, Rogan Jus
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Naan

I’m delighted to tell you, one chocolate lover to another, that not only are the ‘puds’ here extremely good, the chocolate one is possibly in my top 3 along with Baduzzi (in Auckland) and Halia (in Singapore’s Botanical gardens).

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Peanut Butter Parfait, Almond Cake, Cumin Marshmallow, Jaggery Ice Cream
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Dark Chocolate Mousse, Passion Fruit, Yoghurt Ice Cream

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It does turn into a mess once the warm chocolate sauce melts the chocolate dome, but just grab that spoon and enjoy. Andy heard nothing but ‘oh, wow’, for ten minutes!

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Coffee, mint tea and sweets

I had a wonderful lunch at Banares, Mayfair. It would be heard for me to return and order anything different. The dishes I chose were exceptional. We would completely recommend this restaurant for any special occasion. It was our daughter Charlotte and her Matthew who gave us a very generous voucher for this meal (a great gift to any foodie). A heart felt thank you to those darlings.

We are already planning our return, this time with 6 of us, to the Chefs Table. The only difficulty I can imagine is which menu to order from. Take a look at their tasting menu, it looks very very tempting!

Benares,

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I was expecting something special from our lunch at Benares, Mayfair. First of all it's Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar's restaurant. You know: lovely face; gentleman; a regular on your favourite food programmes; first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star. Look him up, you'll recognise him immediately! Secondly, Benares is named after India’s holy city. Expectations were high...

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