Review of 'Benares Restaurant and Bar'

Atul Kochhar is, arguably, the best Indian chef in England. His restaruant in Mayfair, Benares, is a showcase to his talent. The small rather unassuming entrance off of the square (beside the Bentley and Rolls Royce dealerships) leads up into the main restaurant with it's low ceilings, dark colours, and modern furnishings. At the top of the stairs you are faced with a wonderful pool with floating flowers. As you enter the restaurant area itself the bar awaits with comfortable lounge-style seating. The chef's table, if you are lucky (and wealthy) enough to have a booking for is behind a small partition with it's direct view into the kitchen (along with, we are told, a personal intercom so you can converse with the chefs therein).

We were here for the pre-theatre platter special so the restaurant was not busy and very quiet though later, when the suits started to arrive, the place really started humming. We were shown to our table in the far corner of a modern dining room by very courteous waiting staff which always seemed to be at the table at the right point throughout our meal and always explained exactly what they had to (for example, what we were eating) yet never were intrusive.

There are three platters on offer: Vegetable, seafood and meat (£24 or £29 with dessert, matching wines for each course are also available). We both choose the meat (the vegetable seemed a bit boring and the seafood consisted only of fish, so did not entirely enthrawl) which consisted of “black legged chicken tikka” (tender, juicy and probably the best chicken I have ever tasted), “crisp fried duck salad” (small, lightly fried, duck with a wonderful, light, green salad) and “minced lamb koftas” (wonderfully light but not as tasty as the chicken). The platter came with a rather ordinary pilau rice with, we thought, a slightly funny taste. The spices throughout were always subtle but seemed to lovingly caress the dishes.

For dessert I had the “steamed date slice with caramelized milk and kewra [an Indian flower] ice cream” which was lovely and moist with a very mild, pleasing flavour. My companion had the “rose panacotta, hibiscus sorbet and crisp” which was quite flowery but very tasty.

The platters also included tea/coffee and petit fours that arrived at our table after dessert. The petit fours were lovely and very tasty – perfect to accompany the drinks. A bit of theatre followed with the waiter bringing us what looked like two after dinner mints that he then added hot water to - They expanded to hot towels! A bit of fun…

Certainly the platters are a very good deal and offer a great sample of what Benares has to offer (though there are a number of items on the a la carte that sounded very interesting – soft shell crab? Yum). This is not a place to come for a cheap meal but offers top-notch Indian food. I suppose it could be a bit pretentious considering the well dressed clients that came in the door but everyone seemed to enjoy the experience and the staff make everyone welcome. Aside: The only item on our bill that came as a bit of a shock was £17 for two non-alcoholic drinks (they were very good, it has to be said…but £8.50 each?).

We will most definitely be back to sample more of Atul's cooking (we are two of his biggest fans having met him in person two times at various Taste of London events) at this his crowning jewel. Fantastic.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2011-01-31

Cuisine: Indian

Address: 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BS

Public Transport: TUBE Green Park

Location: London (England) - Mayfair



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Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7629 8886