One thing I’ve wanted to do since I moved down to London is to make my way through the Michelin star restaurants that are in and around the city. It’s a tough one as you don’t want to be going to eat a Michelin meal for a casual evening out, there’s got to be an occasion.
Last month, I was lucky enough to re-visit Benares for the 4th time while friends were visiting us. We chose Benares as there is a huge vegetarian menu which catered for my friends.
We got to the restaurant early as we wanted to enjoy some cocktails in the bar before dinner. The drinks were GREAT! I got the passion fruit chutney martini, one of the signature cocktails which has been developed alongside Chef Kochhar himself. It was delicious, sweet but refreshing and tangy all at the same time, the only danger, you don’t taste the alcohol!
Once our table was ready, we were escorted through to our table. If you haven’t dined in a Michelin restaurant, this is when the real magic starts. The waiters are always around if you have a question about the menu, and if you’d like to order wine there’s a sommelier on hand for recommendations.
To start, they bring out a poppadom basket with 3 different chutneys; gooseberry, mango and tomato. Following this we made our order.
Before the starters were served, we got an amuse bouche of lentil dumpling with a yogurt chutney, this was amazing, light as a feather to eat and so very moreish, we all agreed we could have eaten lots of those!
I ordered the Junglee Murg Bhatti Wala, which translated to guinea fowl tikka with sweet and sour smoked beetroot, served with a micro herb salad; it was a huge portion which is something we haven’t experienced in Benares before, I didn’t complain though as it tasted great! EmJay ordered the Tandoori Ratan which was a mixed grill type dish with a lamb sheekh kebab, grilled chicken tikka, sea bass and a prawn, according to him, the chicken was a little bland compared with the other components of the dish.
Next up, the main course, EmJay and myself both went for the Changezi Chaapein, which translated to Tandoori lamb chops with a lamb sauce and seasonal vegetables. This dish was incredible, the lamb was cooked perfectly to our liking. Again, this was a huge portion of 3 really thick chops plus an amazing sauce, which also had pieces of lamb and was served with light and refreshing crunchy vegetables to cut through the richness of the chops and sauce. We also ordered some breads on the side along with the Kalonji Baingan (aubergine crush with onions, tomatoes and nigella seeds) and Gobi Adraki (cauliflower sauteed with cumin, ginger and turmeric). Everything was great! Our friends got the vegetarian kofta dish and were singing it’s praises too.
Then came desserts, we all ordered completely different things, I was blown away by my peanut butter parfait with almond cake, cumin marshmallow and jaggery ice cream, it was the perfect amount of sweet and the jaggery ice cream with the slight spice of the cumin marshmallow made for a perfect end to a great evening. EmJay got the dark chocolate mousse with blackcurrant yoghurt ice cream, he felt this one was a little more style over substance. The whole thing was served inside a chocolate dome and our server drenched it in a warm chocolate sauce to a big reveal of the mousse and ice cream. EmJay would have preferred a quennelle of the mousse with a scoop of ice cream on the side, he found the chocolate dome took away from the mousse a little which was supposed to be the star of the show.
We ended our meal with teas and coffees. When the coffees came out, the waiter didn’t ask our preference on milk and almost poured warm milk into our coffee. Our preference is always cold so it would have been nice to have been provided with an option rather than having to stop our waiter. Other than this, it was another amazing experience at Chef Kochhar’s Benares. All the food was amazing and the service was just as good as it has been previously, apart from a few little niggles.
We look forward to visiting again when the menu changes and another occasion arises. Until then, we look forward to getting the dessert island dishes experience from Atul Kochhar at the end of October during London Restaurant Festival, more information about that can be found here.