After attending the recent re-launch of Atul Kochhar's Benares, Hot Dinners were recently invited back to try out the restaurant itself.
Situated in the heart of Mayfair on Berkeley Square, the warmth of Benares was a welcome respite from the bitterly cold February Wednesday evening. After a couple of drinks in the main bar area - an convivial place to wait for someone - we were ushered into the main dining room.
Last time we were here, this space had been emptied out for the launch party but now it was packed; we were immediately taken by the restaurant's buzz. The entire restaurant was booked up - even the huge private dining room (which can seat up to 30). Not bad for a wintry Wednesday. We were guided to a corner table, our personal favourite in any restaurant - perfect for a spot of people-watching.
On this visit, we tried out the "grazing menu" with matched wines - four courses, each with three separate dishes, designed to show off what the kitchen can really do. It would set you back £99 (or £150 if you go for the "prestige" wines"). £99 certainly isn't cheap, but both of us felt that the experience was more enjoyable than our recent experiences with similarly-priced Mayfair restaurants.
Highlights of the meal were:
- From the first course, an excellent Curry Leaf and Tarrragon Lobster Rillet
- A succulent roasted rump of lamb on rosemary chickpeas
- And finally, the wonderful lemongrass-infused cheesecake and yoghurt foam.
This is just a selection of the 12 different things we got to try all night.
Portions of each are on the small side, which helps you make it through to the end - just be careful as you down scoff down the excellent Naan bread and popadums. The service was attentive, with advice on which order we should try our dishes to make the most of the experience. And, as you'd expect from any restaurant in the heart of London's Hedge Fund quarter, the wine selection was similarly top notch with the Muddy Water Pinot Noir being a firm favourite.
As we stumbled out into the bleak night, the general consensus was one of deep contentment and a residual buzz from the lively atmosphere. Atul is at the top of his game with the food here and we'd heartily recommend it.
If budget's an issue, there are also regular set-menu deals, so if you fancy something other than the grazing menu, check them out on our Top Restaurant Deals page. You can also find out what the critics thought about Benares.