887 Reviews

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Things to do


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February, 2017

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Lunch on me was a belated birthday treat for Roy as we were on holiday in India on the actual day. It seemed appropriate therefore to have an Indian meal and as I’d met Atul Kochhar, the chef of “Benares”:, when we’d appeared together on the TV cookery programme, ‘Yes Chef’, it was the ideal venue.

The restaurant, located opposite Berkley Square, Mayfair, is only a short walk from Green Park tube station. The reception area, where coats are taken and bookings checked is on the ground floor but there is a lift.

In the first-floor cocktail lounge we decided on pre-lunch vodka martinis: ‘green spice’ for Roy and ‘passion fruit chutney’ for me. Roy’s was very unusual with vodka shaken over coriander and cumin syrup, fresh root ginger, lemon juice and elderflower cordial: said to ‘offer your pallet a warming zing of Indian flavours’ which it did. It was garnished with a roasted Cumin Marshmallow whilst the slice of passion fruit in my sweeter drink, was topped with little silver balls on it: the type used to decorate cakes with.

This is a Michelin star restaurant and the menu reflects this with starters priced £19 to £27 and mains £30 to £36 plus sides. As this was my treat, I tactfully steered Roy towards the set menu – two courses £29 and 3 for £35.

At the table, which had starched white linen napery, we were presented with mini poppadoms and a three chutneys: tomato, apricot and gooseberry.

There was a choice of three appetisers and three mains. To start with I chose ‘Quinoa and Black-eyed Bean Tikki, Pineapple and Mango Ginger Chutney’ which was a single patty topped with mint sauce with Roy opting for ‘Bhatti Spiced Lamb Pasanda, Smoked Aubergine Purée and Grilled Gem lettuce’. I’m not a huge lamb fan, but his two pieces of tender grilled lamb had fabulous, spicy flavours, and I could have easily eaten the whole portion.

For mains, we had ‘Chettinad Chicken Supreme, Leaf Spinach, Fennel, Pepper and Caramelised Onion Purée’ and ‘Pan-Roasted Sea Bream, Aloo Paliya, Coconut and Kokum Sauce’. Both came with a lentil dal and a choice of rice or nan, so we had one of each. Once again, the flavours were wonderfully intense. I once tried one of Atul’s recipes and it took me half a day to make a sauce to basically adorn the plate, so I know how much effort goes into the dishes.

The wine list was a leather-bound book with an index. As it included Indian wine, I thought it appropriate to order a bottle of Sula Chenin Blanc – a wine we’d drunk on holiday. At £32 it was also one of the cheapest on a list ranging from £29 to £1375 (no, this is not a typing error!)

We were too full for pudding but when the table was being cleared Roy just happened to mention why we’d chosen the restaurant and he was discreetly presented with a raspberry-topped chocolate brownie with candle and ‘happy birthday’ written in chocolate sauce. With the bill came three small petit fours.

Having paid the bill, I noticed that the cocktails hadn’t been included which left me in a dilemma. Should I tell them or not? Normally I’d been tempted to ignore the fact, but this time I wasn’t sure whether Atul had paid for the drinks as I’d exchanged texts with him about our visit. If this was the case, I really needed to thank him, so pointed out the mistake. The girl apologized, returned with the chip and pin machine, and without hesitating took payment for the two cocktails which, with service, were £30. On the basis, I’d pointed out her mistake, I do think she might have gone 50:50 or at least knocked off the service.

Even though it was a Thursday lunch time, there was steady turnover and a couple on a nearby table were indulging in the tasting menu £98 plus £55 for wine pairings. However, there seemed to be a lot of groaning as course after course was delivered: we were very full after two.

Helen Jackson

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