Wednesday, 29 August 2007
I may not be able to eat bread or cheese but that doesn't mean I want to miss out on exotic food. I want to eat curry or sushi or a Brazilian stew just like anyone else. So, after seeing chef Atul Kochhar on TV a few times, I decided to try his London restaurant Benares today. Hiding among blank office fronts on Berkeley Square, Benares doesn't exactly announce itself. In fact, once I got to the square, I couldn't see it and had to ring the restaurant to check its precise address. Then 20 minutes later my lunch date rang me to ask exactly the same thing. Despite standing a couple of doors down from Benares, she couldn't see it. Once inside, however, you can't fail to see just how opulent and sedate it is. The dark wood panelling, the carvings and creamy white linen is a lush cocoon from the road works and general London mayhem outside. Even our wonky table, which could have caused seasickness, did little to ruin the atmosphere.
And the food was great. I told them about my obvious impediments - no poppadoms for me - and the waiters rigorously checked and rechecked the ingredients with the kitchen. They rejigged dishes for me so that I could enjoy ginger infused meat balls with lavender honey and then pan-fried sea bream with a coconut milk and spice dip. I had to bypass the complimentary plate of petits fours but a cafetiere of great coffee more than softened the blow.
The food was ordered off a £25 prix fixe lunch menu, which meant that I didn't have to remortgage my mother to go there, but the a la carte menu will require a trust fund or a bank robbery. The lobster curry with tomato rice weighed in at a hefty £38 as a main course. The others sat around the £25 mark, with desserts around £10. It's a lot more than other high-end restaurants, such as my favourite Le Club Gascon, but then old Atul does have a Michelin star. And a fantastic restaurant to boot.
Benares, 12a Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6BS, UK, Tel: 020 7629 8886