Restaurant Review: Benares
Entering Benares instantly feels like you are part of a global metropolis. This could be Mumbai, or Abu Dhabi, but it’s London, just off Berkeley Square in Mayfair. Nestled neatly among the Bugatti and Bentley showrooms, another timeless classic sits.
Much like its supercar neighbours, the iconic Indian restaurant of Benares offers a refined, luxury experience. The stairway up to the main dining space is built around a water feature that radiates peacefulness, and calms the excited hum of conversation beyond. Beautiful orb lighting bounces around deep red booths, and smartly dressed white tables are perfectly laid for an unforgettable dinner. The service, led by a talented maître d', was every bit as diligent as you’d expect from a Michelin star-awarded restaurant - an honour Benares wears proudly.
The first course was a selection of simple but sumptuous Street Snack. Served in homage to the street vendors that keep Indian society running with their delicious food, the snacks were served alongside a pretty little tree, intended to signify the shade-giving plants that keep the vendors cool in the heat of the day. The tribute was as touching as the snacks were delicious.
Next, the Carlingford Oyster came beautifully served in its shell with Sea Bream Chaat, and ensconced in a case. There was a beautiful moment of showmanship as the waiter poured water around it, causing a beautiful mist to envelop the dish. The move that evoked the harsh surf of Ireland’s coast and the tranquil peace of Goa’s beaches in equal measure. Staying with the oceanic theme, the next dish was a hand-dived Baked Malabar Scallop, served appropriately in a perfect half shell. This dish, like the previous, gave the feeling of chancing upon a precious bounty, showcasing the taste of the Scottish Scallop in vibrant Indian style. Next, and completing this trio of special seafood dishes, came the Tawa Masala Wild Halibut, pan-seared to perfection, glazed with a tantalising marinade and topped with a segment of fresh blood orange.
Following this heavenly celebration of ocean flavours, the next courses on this tasting journey bring you right back to earth. The Tandoori Muntjac was a rich slab of tender venison meat, served with chilli chutney and cooled with a garlic yoghurt. The main event may have been the next dish, a truly original take on the British favourite of Chicken Tikka. Their Baby Poussin Tikka Masala was marinated to perfection in a blended spice rub, with a tenderness that carried perfect flavours. This was served with crispy handmade paratha breads that went excellently when dipped into the rich dal that was potted alongside, forming the ideal accoutrement. The dish offered the familiar flavours that we know and love from Indian cuisine, but was a different league to your usual curry house Tikka Masala.
Finishing this jolly jaunt around the finest of Indian cuisine was the dessert course, and in typical style, the course was as beautifully served as it was scrumptious. Rasmalai, a traditional Indian dessert, is made from paneer cheese cooked in sugar syrup, and served with rich vanilla ice-cream in a light pool of condensed milk. Served in a beautiful, deep stone bowl, the warmth of the cooked paneer contrasted with the cooling freshness of the ice-cream to create a remarkable entropy of flavours on the tongue. A refreshing, airy treat, this was most welcome after the richness and intense flavours of the dishes that preceded it.
Their masterful menu certainly did not fail in Executive Chef Sameer Taneja’s mission to combine the finest of British ingredients with the timeless heritage of Indian cooking. The warmth and generosity you will experience at Benares is an experience not to be missed.
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