A beacon for Indian fine dining since 2003, Michelin-starred Benares combines British ingredients with authentic Indian regional dishes adding a layer of French-inspired refinement. Charismatic executive chef Atul Kochhar has been instrumental in changing the perception of Indian food in Britain with his boldly contemporary cooking. He is well known for his appearances on TV’s Masterchef, Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen and has a sophisticated, intelligent approach to shaking up traditional Indian cuisine both in the subtle nuances of spice, flavour and texture and his beguiling artistic presentation. The name Benares originates from the Indian holy city Varanasi, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, on the banks of the Ganges. The restaurant has an almost spiritual, spa like quality to its décor with its hibiscus flower filled pool and granite floors in the bar and hand-crafted furniture in the elegant, black and white, main restaurant. It has the largest – sitting thirty-six diners – private dining room in Mayfair and a sommelier’s table seating ten surrounded by extraordinarily fine champagnes and vintage wines, besides some interesting Indian wines. Guests in groups of up to six people have the tempting option of enjoying their meal at the Chef’s Table that gives an intimate view of the chefs and kitchen during service.
The kitchen constantly delivers real creativity whether scallop, caramelized apple and pinenut podi, chargrilled salmon aromatic with coconut, curry leaf sauce or Great British Menu winner New Forest venison, sorrel and oyster mushroom, biriyani, chocolate curry. Among the more playful dishes, chicken tikka pie has many fans. Desserts are show-stoppers including rose spiced, cherry chocolate lava cake, an instagram favourite. Tasting menus are the best showcase for Atul Kochhar’s talents and sensitively paired with intriguing wines. The vegetarian tasting menu ranging from quinoa, black-eyed bean and paneer tikka to portobello mushrooms filled with edamame, tandoori broccoli and lemon, curry leaf sauce is inspiring too. Inventive set lunches might highlight piri-piri quail with smoked beetroot and a dessert of tarte Tatin infused with anise and fennel, typifying the crossover approach. For a quick exploratory visit, try quirky cocktails and street food snacks. Benares combines the exoticism of India with Mayfair aplomb.