It’s not often that we head as far as Mayfair to try new culinary delights, but, after hearing about Benares, we knew we had to.
Located on Berkeley Square, you’ll soon realise that Benares deserves to take it’s place alongside the more famous Mayfair haunts such as Annabel’s, Nobu and Sexy Fish.
Whether it was the extravagant staircase, or the large lily pond, we knew immediately that this place was far from dull. With a passion fruit chutney Martini in-hand, we took to our table and prepared ourselves for a night of dining heaven.
Sameer Taneja, former Head Chef at the Indian-British fusion restaurant, returned in July 2019 and has recently created a new eight-course Indian tasting menu. The tasting menu, which Taneja developed and perfected during last year’s closures, is a tribute to his travels and knowledge of the sub-Indian continent. What’s more, it comes with an eclectic, yet first-class, wine pairing too.
We cannot wax lyrical about each 11 courses. However, we will try to do justice to the highest of the high points.
The Street Snacks must have first mention. Adopting the art of bonsai as a presentation dish, and complete with a tiny handwritten note attached to the miniature tree, Sameer explains that the street snack idea was inspired by Indian street food vendors who took shade under a tree during the working day. A humanitarian and cute touch that gave pause for thought before moving on to the next course.
Next we tucked into the Channa Papdi Chaat, which can only be described as small edible cones were stuffed with chickpea masala and topped with a mint and tamarind chutney. A treat for all the senses and a beautiful blend of spices and invigorating tastes.
The Italian Winter Shorba – a soup flavoured with truffles – set the pace for the following course. Superb if you like deep flavours, but perhaps a little overpowering for any delicate palates.
The highlight of the night came early in the shape of the Porlock Bay oysters and cured sea-bream chaat. A smouldering plated cauldron of Seafood served in oyster shells and presented so beautifully that even Van Gogh would have looked on in envy. Utterly delicious and refreshing flavours.
It was at this point that Sameer’s love of local produce and his inspiration of the Indian continent came into play, including the baked malabar ‘hand-dived scallop’, which was heavily inspired by the coast. This was washed down with a glass of Nykas Bodai Sauvignon Blanc (Etyek-Buda) – a Hungarian white florally wine, with hints of citrus.
For anyone more excited by the prospect of meat than fish, we would highly recommend the tandoori muntjac. Beautifully presented again, this time with a miniature edible muntjac wafer, the venison meal was an interactive joy. While the garlic yoghurt and chilli chutney served alongside this dish, balanced out those spicy tandoori flavours perfectly.
Several more dishes followed including the Baby Poussin Tikka Masala, but the journey ended with Petit Fours. I’m not sure this final course was actually needed but it was a colourful and much-appreciated final gesture to an enjoyable culinary experience.
The Benares tasting menu is an experience not to be forgotten; playful, educative, tasty and oozing aesthetics. Definitely worthy of the Michelin star that Executive Chef Sameer has recently been awarded, and deservedly so. If you are looking for a different experience this Christmas and New Year then Benares will not disappoint.
12a Berkeley Square W1J 6BS
MAIN IMAGE: Tandoori Muntjac with Garlic Yoghurt and Chilli Chutney